The sound echoes through the room.
Heel toe. Click clack. Heel toe. Click clack.
It’s Wednesday night at Etudes Too, and a small class of beginner tap dancers are learning a routine. But while the dancers may be beginners at tap, they’re not beginners in life.
The women in the class are part of a growing number of adults who are strapping on their taps shoes and taking to the floor in their golden years.
“It’s not so much of a surprise,” said dance instructor Cindy Padgett. “There’s something about tap dance that (these women) are drawn to.”
Maybe it’s the music — sometimes reminiscent of the dancers’ younger years — or the exercise — dancers say tap is more fun than running on the treadmill. Or perhaps it’s the friendship. Whatever it is, women are flocking to classes across Southwest Florida in droves.
“I thought I was too old,” said Maureen Purcell. “But the first time I (tapped), I absolutely loved it.”
Purcell, 70, began tapping a little more than a year ago with ReCreation Tappers, a network of amateur tappers in the area. Purcell said she always wanted to learn how to tap but didn’t really think she would be able to do it until she saw other women her age out there.
“I’m having lots and lots of fun,” she said after an afternoon class at the River Park Community Center. “Once you do it, you’re hooked. I don’t know of anyone who came (to class) and then left. I live for this.”
She’s not alone. ReCreation Tappers has about 90 women in the group, 30 of whom are part of the group’s dance troupe.
ReCreation Tappers was founded by six women in 2004, said Greer White, a dance captain and publicity chairwoman for the group.
“What I think is cool about the group is we’re older,” White said. “We all have gray hair and we dance anyway. There’s older ladies who remember tap dancing (growing up) and they relate to these old ladies up there.”
Women in ReCreation Tappers range in age from 51 to 81, similar to the age range in Padgett’s dance classes. But Padgett said these women shouldn’t be considered old.
“They’re so youthful,” she said of her students. “It’s not like they’re senior citizens.”
Back at Etudes Too, three women shimmy behind Padgett to the sultry tunes from the musical “Chicago.” As Richard Gere sings “Razzle Dazzle,” Padgett shouts out the next step for the women following along.
Heel toe. Heel toe. Toe heel. Toe heel. Step. Shuffle.
“That was nice,” she said to her girls. “Let’s do it once more for luck.”
It was a different scene across town earlier in the day, when ReCreation Tappers held its weekly intermediate class. The dozen or so women dressed in shorts, loose-fitting T-shirts and tap shoes filled a small stage at the River Park Community Center and began practicing for their annual Christmas show.
It’s a routine they’ve run through several times before, but a new combination at the end tripped some of the women up.
It didn’t matter, though, said Gail Anderson. The 68-year-old Estero resident said she’s tapping for the fun of it, not because she’s a professional.
Anderson started dancing a few years back in Minnesota, and said when she moved to Southwest Florida she knew she needed to find a class to get her back in the groove of things.
“I just have such fun doing it,” she said after her class. “Exercise, music and good friends. What more can you ask for?”
The friendship factor is a big one. While ReCreation Tappers does perform publicly, it’s more about socializing than showing off steps, White said.
“It’s a social thing,” she said. “We dance and have a good time. That’s where the friendship and camaraderie comes from.”
There are benefits to tap dancing. Padgett said many of the women in her class do it for their health. An hour tap class, she said, is often times more fun than spending an hour at the gym and provides a similar workout.
“It’s great exercise,” she said. “That’s the beauty of tap dancing. It’s fun and joyous and rhythmic and musical.”
Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna_buzzacco