Tapping into a new opportunity to dance
by Kendra Hartmann
Dec 12, 2012 | 119159 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Residents of Sunrise Senior Living practice tapping special gloves, outfitted with the same taps as tap shoes, on boards during Tap Fever’s hand-tapping workshop at the assisted care facility in November. 	Courtesy photo
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One morning in November, a couple of instructors from La Jolla’s Tap Fever walked into Sunrise Senior Living carrying wooden boards and several pairs of gloves. They handed out the supplies to a handful of residents — some in wheelchairs — assembled in the facility’s sitting room and proceeded to teach them something the elderly residents probably thought they’d never learn: how to tap dance.

Coaching the residents, Larisa Hall, executive director of Tap Fever, and Alondra Jackson, the school’s marketing director, helped them create a melody of taps without ever leaving their chairs. Using the gloves, which had been outfitted with the same taps found on tap shoes, the group, some of who have physical or cognitive limitations, tapped on the boards, “dancing” to Hall’s count.

Hall, who created the concept and developed the gloves and boards (a patent is in the process), said she wanted to find a way to offer dance to anyone, but she realized the nature of most dance styles limits who can enjoy them to the physically mobile.

“[Tap Fever offers] all of the standard dance classes, but I didn’t want to have to turn anybody away for any reason,” she said. “I wanted to be able to provide opportunities to everyone, and I feel like there should be an opportunity to dance if someone wants to. Besides, even if someone doesn’t have limited mobility, it’s fun. It’s a new thing to try.”

Hall came up with the idea when she was doing something she often does: choreographing a dance routine in a place with no room to move.

“I often have to practice in my head and use my hands to mimic the moves, because I might be in a place where there’s no room to tap,” she said. “I thought maybe it could be a good way to offer dance those who can’t move very much.”

Laura Mulvaney, activity and volunteer coordinator with Sunrise, said the workshop got a welcome reception from the participants.

“The hand-tapping workshop made a significant difference from the usual participation of residents in a physical activity,” she said. “Because our residents frequently have memory problems, watching their eyes light up and seeing them remember the repetitions, the counting and the tapping in the same order that the teacher performed it excited even the staff at Sunrise. As the end of the class drew near, there were residents who had only wished to watch tapping their hands in their laps and in the air, even after the gloves came off.”

The workshops have been popular with residents at other area communities, as well. Hall and her colleagues conducted a trial run with a few workshops last year, and found that their students — some of them from White Sands in La Jolla — loved the new activity. Since then, however, she hasn’t been able to market the program because of a lack of funding. A nonprofit, Tap Fever offers scholarships to help students explore their desire to dance, even if they can’t afford it. The burden of attempting to help in this economy, however, often weighs heavily on the school, Hall said.

“We offer a lot of scholarships. People assume that because we’re located in La Jolla, [our students] have money. That’s definitely not the case,” she said. “People come from all over to take classes and they need scholarships to pay for it. Then we’re struggling, because our only income comes from people buying dance classes, so we’re barely making ends meet.”

That doesn’t mean Tap Fever will be giving up its philanthropic side, however. Hall hopes to bring the hand-tapping workshops regularly to retirement and nursing homes, as well as to other organizations that work with those who have physical limitations. She recently made a contact with the Wounded Warrior Project, and hopes to be able to offer hand-tapping classes to physically disabled soldiers.

“The main thing is that when people have limitations or some sort of physical issues, they don’t want to feel different or like they can’t do something,” she said. “It feels bad to think you can’t do something. Not everybody will want to dance, but a lot of people love dancing and it’s a fun way to give them the opportunity to do that, when they thought maybe they would never be able to.”

To learn more about Tap Fever or to donate to the school, visit www.tapfever.com and click on “donate” on the bottom right, or visit .
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