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Tapping into retirement: Local dance class inspires women to stay fit and active

“Five, six, seven, eight!”

It’s a sunny fall morning at Inspire Dance Centre in Southold as instructor Meagan Loring begins a tap class with a series of ankle and leg warmups.

She taps a few buttons on her iPhone and King Harvest’s 1973 hit “Dancing in the Moonlight” begins reverberating through the studio’s speakers. 

You don’t have to be tall, thin or glamorous to love to tap. No tutu or costume is required and we won’t make it to Broadway or a recital. We tap for the pure joy of it, not the pressure.

Miriam Bissu

Behind her, a group of women are transported back to a different time as they glide across the floor, executing a routine Loring has been piecing together over several weeks.

The midmorning tap class brings together a group of retired women in their 60s and 70s from all walks of life: teachers, artists, an insurance broker and an actuary, who all say tap has helped them stay fit and form a unique bond.

“Retirement has given us an opportunity to fulfill dreams of dancing that we never had time to do while working,” said Miriam Bissu, a retired schoolteacher.

Loring, who studied dance at Dean College in Massachusetts, has been dancing since 1995 and teaching since 2006. She’s celebrating her sixth year in business at Inspire Dance, where she teaches three adult classes — two tap classes and an evening hip-hop class — in addition to a full youth schedule. She’s also trying to kick off an adult ballet class.

“[Hip-hop] is like moms’ night out,” she said of the 8 p.m. class. “It’s once the kids are asleep.”

Though she loves working with children, Loring said she is inspired by the passion shown by the adults she teaches. 

“It’s fun and rewarding, but it slows you down,” she said. “The adult class is my refresher for the week. It’s a fun workout that doesn’t necessarily feel like a workout.”

Aside from exercising their arms, legs and core, tap is a workout for their brains as they build routines and remember them each week. “It keeps them fresh,” Loring said.

Multiple studies show that regular physical activity, including dance, can help the brain as it ages. The National Institute on Aging recommends a regular routine of physical activity for all adults and touts the health and cognitive benefits important to memory and learning.

While most of Loring’s classes celebrate the culmination of a semester with a recital, her adult classes usually decline to participate. “They just do it for fun,” she said.

Participants enjoy a class late last year. (Credit: Tara Smith)

Bissu said she enjoys class for that reason. 

“You don’t have to be tall, thin or glamorous to love to tap. No tutu or costume is required and we won’t make it to Broadway or a recital,” she said. “We tap for the pure joy of it, not the pressure.”

The women all joined the weekly class with varying levels of tap experience.

Jeanne Hall, also a retired teacher, took tap dance classes from childhood through college and has even taught community recreation classes as an adult.

Rebecca Amoroso, a former actuary, also enjoyed tapping as a child and recalled that her mother was a “phenomenal” dancer.

“Work always got in the way,” Amoroso said of finding a hobby. “Life gets busy.”

As she retired, she began looking for adult tap classes and convinced longtime friend Christine DiBona to join her at class.

DiBona admits that as a child, she did not take dance classes or join the Girl Scouts, but since retiring from a 40-year career as a corporate insurance broker, she’s made time for an array of activities ranging from fitness to arts and crafts.

“Joy” is the word DiBona uses when describing the class, from the music and movement to meeting new people. “Regardless of the level of our ability to tap, we are welcome and supported,” she said. “It’s a workout for the mind, for balance, coordination, and a mind-body connection. And it sure is a lot more fun than lifting weights.”

All agreed that the class makes them feel like kids again, in part because of a playlist Loring has created that features everything from Sinatra to “Still the One” by Orleans and occasionally, a more modern hit.

Hall said she always leaves class in a good mood. 

“I tell my husband, I’m going to tap my troubles away,” she joked.