Intro Adult/teen tap class: Trish Shropshire leads adult and teenage dancers through introductory tap dance steps with tips on arm position and footwork.

Photo by Geneva Miller

Tap is a lively and rhythmic dance form that’s fun to learn at any age.

“It’s as American as apple pie,” said Trish Shropshire, instructor at MarLo Dance Studio in Bandon.

Developed in the United States, tap is a unique performing art that’s both dance and music, thanks to percussive sounds created by the fancy footwork. The dance reflects influences from the folk and traditional dances of West Africa and the British Isles.

Tap was celebrated in the first half of the 20th century, coming into its own during the jazz era. The modern tap dance Renaissance proves how well tap adapts to contemporary pop music.

“I love using rock n’ roll in the practice room,” said Shropshire.

Classical music and popular standards filled the soundtrack of her student and early teaching days. She still uses traditional ballet warm-up techniques with her tappers, “Because ballet came first,” she explains. But, new tunes energize the classroom.

This fall, Shropshire’s class line-up includes an intro to tap class for adults and teens. It’s a great opportunity for those who want to get back into dance or try something new.

“Tap is looser. It’s got a different feel and attitude than ballet,” she said.

A sense of rhythm helps, if you can tap your toe to the beat of the music, said Shropshire. Dancers who’ve taken ballroom will find some cross-over. “You know how to move, and you know a ball-change already,” she said.

Interest and the desire to dance are really the only prerequisites. As with other performing arts, dancers learn individual skills and how to work with the group. Dance is great exercise, and Shropshire says her students build confidence as they memorize choreography and improve their rhythm and coordination.

Dance for a lifetime

Co-founders Maria Merriam and Lois Henry opened MarLo Dance Studio in Bandon in 1999. The initial class roster featured ballet and tap instruction, including two adult tap classes. The studio has grown to fill a niche for dancers in Southern Coos and North Curry counties. Today, classes include ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop and ballroom dance as well as adult fitness classes. Students can pursue training for pre-professional and collegiate level dance or take classes simply for the fun of it– at any age.

“We’ve had women in their 70s and 80s performing,” said Merriam.

Shropshire took her first dance lessons when she was nine years old and quickly discovered her place in the arts. She earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education from Montana State University and dance instruction certification from Dance Masters of America. After two years teaching in public schools, she opened her own dance studio. Trish’s School of Dance in Riverton, Wyo., kept her teaching and producing dance productions for 24 years. She also worked as an adjunct faculty member at Central Wyoming College.

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Shropshire moved to Bandon in 2004 and started teaching classes at MarLo the same year. Merriam describes Shropshire as the complete package. She is an inventive choreographer, and she shares a broad range of dance experience, teaching tap, jazz, lyrical and ballet level four. She’s an instructor who supports fellow staff members and cares about her students.

“For both of us, this is more than just a job,” said Merriam. “And, she’s still creative.”

Recalling the first time she saw Shropshire’s lyrical choreography for MarLo’s “Sleeping Beauty” production, Merriam said she got goosebumps.

Stepping out on stage

The goal for dancers is to share their work with an audience. Dance practice may include a lot of fitness training, but it’s a performing art.

Shropshire has choreographed for countless dance and musical theater productions, including classics such as “Anything Goes,” “Oklahoma,” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Her choreography is shaped by the music, and she’s always listening for inspired tunes. She’s discovered that the right music can help students perform at a higher level.

“I listen and re-listen to the music. A lot of times, students can accomplish steps that are a challenge if they make sense with the music,” said Shropshire. “Performance is optional for adults (at MarLo). But working toward a performance, working on a piece, memorizing and performing are all part of the experience of performing arts.”

Audiences for the annual spring show routinely fill the Sprague Theater in Bandon. The spring production showcases the entire MarLo student body, and proceeds benefit the studio’s scholarship fund. Fall class registration is open through October. Call 541-347-1394 or visit the studio website, marlodance.com, for more information.