City Tap Dancers Who Are Hot to Trot
It’s 6:30 on a Wednesday night, and Grace Pearson and Chloe O’Neal are in the big dance studio on Elm Street, facing the mirror and doing warm-ups — toe-drops, wig-wags, flaps, and shuffles.
Their teacher, Sheila Eaton, calls out some other steps — the shim-sham, falling-off-the-log and the Buffalo —and then leads them in a short routine, to the infectious bounce off a tune from the Broadway musical Cats.
Pearson and O’Neal are also learning a new dance tonight, the Continental (think Fred and Ginger), and they love it.
The two Bonham friends, both 50 years old, have been taking tap at the Christine Page Studio for the past 20 years.
“It’s something I do for the pure pleasure of it—simply for me”, Pearson declares. “I love hearing the rhythm and making my feet follow the pattern. And it’s much better than aerobics”.
Pearson resides on Elm Street, and is the owner, along with husband Steve, of 11th Street’s Pearson Heel shoe repair shop. She also has three children, ages 5, 8, 14 and will be the first to admit that her busy life benefits from a little stress-busting —and tap dancing fits the bill.
She and O’Neal, friends when they were students at the University, reconnected when the O’Neal, strolling down Elm Street one evening, looked in the window of the Pearson Heel and saw the Pearson working late.
In the middle of an exuberant reunion, O’Neal announced that “a bunch of us are starting tap lessons in the neighborhood.” Pearson decided to join in.
A dozen years later. Pearson is still shuffling off to the Studio at least once a week, and her family “respects it as my sacred time”, she says.
O’Neal also gets applause from her family. The View Street resident is a counselor in the health clinic at the High School and the mother of two ages 21 and 25. “It’s a wonderful stress-reducer to be traveling around the room making a lot of noise,” she says. “Our goal isn’t to be professional lap dancers. It’s to have fun, and we do.”
“I don’t get much exercise,” O’Neal confesses. “And this is a great way to do it.”
Caroline Strickland, 66, and Chloe Shaw, 62, couldn’t agree more. “Pure fun” is what has kept Oak Street resident Strickland and her 11 Street neighbor Shaw tapping for the past 19 years, Strickland says.