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The City Journals

Salt Water Tappys tap to their own beat

May 09, 2018 02:36PM ● By Holly Vasic

The tappers practice their tap dance for the May 18 performance in Kearns. (Holly Vasic/City Journals)

By Holly Vasic | [email protected] 

Tap out of the mundane for a moment every Monday and Thursday and join Kim Luke and the girls for a tap dancing class. The Salt Water Tappys performing group emerged from this $5 drop-in class at the Holladay Lions Recreation Center and it’s a tapping good time for everybody.

“My classes had to be during the day when my kids were at school,” Luke said, so she started a tap and ballet class for adults that worked for her schedule. Having a class before noon on a weekday brings in stay-at-home moms, retirees and others within a certain age and demographic, and the women who show up are thrilled that a class at such a time exists. “It’s provided an outlet for these women who have always wanted to dance, or used to dance, to get back into it,” said Luke.

As the class went on and more and more regulars came, one of the women approached her and asked if she had ever considered doing group performances. “And I hadn’t,” Luke admitted, despite her background in performance dance. When she moved to Salt Lake, she decided to not make that her focus. In fact, she set up a business model in which she didn’t worry about performances and taught young children and adult classes in existing facilities, such as Holladay Lions and places like Performing Dance Center in Millcreek.

Instead of creating her own studio, Luke decided to spend her energy with her students. She sends her young students off to studios that will serve their abilities when they get to about 12 and need to perform for real; otherwise, she holds little performances with inexpensive costumes for parents in the classroom a few times a year.

During the holiday season, a local senior center contacted Luke. “(They) said, ‘Well, we know that you teach children’s class — would the children like to come perform for us around Christmas time?’” Luke thought that would be great, which sparked another idea: maybe she could include more than just the kids.

“So, I went to the ladies and said, ‘Hey my children’s company is going to perform at the Millcreek Community Center — where the senior center is housed — at Christmas time. Would you guys like to perform along with them?’” The tap class couldn’t say yes fast enough, but to be a performance group they had to have a name. “They came up with all of these very funny names and the Salt Water Tappys was the one that they voted on.”

Luke wasn’t sure how it would go, but she prepared a dance the ladies could work on during class with whoever showed up. Twelve women came, and then another senior center called, asking if they could perform for them, too. So on May 18, the Salt Water Tappys will be performing again at the Kearns Senior Center, 4851 Lacoy Dr. at 10:45 a.m. “To these ladies it’s big time,” Luke said, and it’s a good time for everyone.

Nancy Wingelaar has been attending the class for the last two years. “Unlike most of these ladies, I never had a day of it before that,” she said. “It took a little bit of work, you know, that first six months I was like, what?” Wingelaar, like most of the tappers, is quick on her feet and really keeps with the beat. “I didn’t know how to do the nifty or any of that stuff,” she said, but she does now, and well. “It’s great — I love it, and it’s great for our bodies and our minds.” 

Another regular attendee, Hydee Clayton, also started about two years ago with Wingelaar. “It was just one of those things that I wanted to do all my life and when I retired I finally had time,” Clayton said. She also does the ballet class with Luke but she describes this one as “more kind of aerobic and quick thinking.”

“It almost has the feel of like a club than a drop-in class,” Luke said. She sees the same 20-plus gals every week, but everyone is welcome to join and everyone seems to love newbies.