Like many people from my generation, I grew up watching Disney movies. I was born during the triumphant return of the Disney musical…Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin. These were pretty popular when I was a kid growing up.
What wasn’t popular were the other movies I was watching. They were unknown to kids in my age group. In fact, a lot of my friend’s parents didn’t even know what these movies were. Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older I’ve found more people who loved these very movies that were so unknown when I was younger.
I’m talking about the old classics. Singing in the Rain. On the Town. Anchors Aweigh. Easter Parade. Top Hat. Holiday Inn. Swing Time. These are some of the more popular ones. I loved these movies growing up. I used to secretly tap and stomp around the house thinking that I looked just as cool as Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire.
Trust me, I didn’t. And it probably sounded horrible.
I took ballet for a few years, but I never asked my parents for tap classes. I just continued to be mesmerized by the skill of these dancers and to pretend that I could do what they did.
As I get older, I still love these movies and watch them regularly. And I still am mesmerized by the incredible skill that is put on display. I love watching tap. I always have. But I never bothered to take a single class.
Watching Newsies the Musical this past spring made me ask myself why. Why haven’t I taken a tap class? I like it. I think it looks and sounds spectacular. Most of my all-time favorite movies have tap numbers in them. Many of my all-time favorite songs have tap sounds recorded into them.
So why haven’t I bothered trying to dance? I excused myself saying that I didn’t start when I was young, so there was no point in starting later in life.
Then Newsies came out with another “Meet the Newsies” video. This one was about Garett Hawe, who plays Albert and Bill in the show. Watch the video:
I watched this video over and over this summer. Garett’s words stirred something inside of me. For almost two months, I watched this video at least once a day trying to figure it out.
I began to realize that Garett’s words had stirred my desire to start dancing again. I re-watched the “Meet the Newsies – Morris Delancey” video (because Mike does some pretty amazing tap here). I could feel the desire growing. I watched a video of Brendon Stimson being interviewed by Alpha NYC, and heard him talk about how he didn’t start dancing until he was in high school. Maybe it wasn’t too late…but I couldn’t.
Then Jack Scott tweeted about Singing in the Rain, and I popped in my DVD and watched the movie. Gene Kelly really could dance! I began to wish and dream that I could truly dance. Maybe not as well as Jack, Brendon, Mike, Garett, or Gene. But what if I could?
I stayed up late that night watching videos of King of New York, Gene Kelly, and Fred Astaire. The next day, I re-watched the “Meet the Newsies – Albert” video a few more times.
When I was younger, I was a little overweight and even more awkward. Finding theatre and dance gave me confidence, and with that I was able to feel more comfortable with the person I was on the inside. I became a lot more active and it set me on track for a healthier lifestyle.
I spent a lot of time thinking about Garett’s words, about the Newsies, about how many of them had been inspired by Newsies the Movie, by Gene Kelly, by Fred Astaire. I thought about how much I admired them for their commitment to their fans, to their art. I made a decision:
I had my first class last Monday, and I pretty much sounded the same way I did as a little three-year old stomping around the kitchen. Which might have been discouraging if I hadn’t had quite so much fun just wearing the tap shoes.
We learned the basic steps, and started practicing what my teacher called “The Anthem of Tap” or the “Shim Sham.” I’ve been practicing privately a little every day (except Tuesday because I went to go see Garett as Davey in Newsies and didn’t get home until late…but I did a couple steps in the subway to make up for it). It’s a lot of fun, and I’m really happy about my decision. I can’t wait for my class this Monday!
A HUGE thank you to Garett Hawe for getting me to think about this again, and to Brendon Stimson, Mike Faist, and Jack Scott for helping to tip the scale in favor of dance! You are all amazing and inspiring. I love watching you perform!