Mon09012014

Your Health

Heart and sole

Folks are discovering tap dancing as a fun cardiovascular workout

Los Altos residents are making a racket all over town as they tap into good health through dance.

"Tap is a wonderful way to get a cardiovascular workout while doing something fun," said Kathi Harkness, dance instructor at the Los Altos-Mountain View Recreation Department. "It's good on your joints and knees. You barely have to lift your legs, but can still get a good workout."

Harkness said tap dancing has been making a "huge comeback" in the past 10 years.

She said tap is easy to learn, can be enjoyed by people of all ages and can be accompanied by almost any music.

Harkness teaches five classes a week to about 60 students from the Los Altos area. "Most come in for fun and exercise," Harkness said. She said the mother-daughter tap class is one of her most popular.

"Children like the noise, and mothers like the exercise," she said. "Both can participate."

Jean San Juan, who has taught dance at the San Juan School of Dance in Los Altos for 37 years and in England for 10 years, said she had to work hard to get people in Los Altos to share her "love" for tap, but now she can't get them to stop tapping.

San Juan said she has taught three generations of dancers.

San Juan teaches about 150 students a week from 5 to 90 years old.

"People like it. (Tap) feels easier than ballet. There's instant gratification, and you don't need a strong discipline like you do with ballet," San Juan said. "It's good, fun exercise. You can feel the perspiration roll down your back."

Both dance instructors said they start students with easy steps, such as the shuffle, to help students build rhythm, balance and strength.

"The key is to stay on the balls of your feet and make a light sound. You don't want any 'thumping' or 'huffing,'" San Juan said.

Gina Wulff, who has been taking tap lessons at San Juan for five years, calls herself an "audio learner.

"I learn with sound. That's the only way I know if I'm doing it right. I have to hear the steps first or I don't get it," she said.

Wulff started taking lessons after seeing how much fun her two daughters were having in their dance lessons. Now she meets about four other mothers at lunch time for weekly lessons.

"My kitchen floor will never be the same," said Wulff, who practices tap at her Mountain View home with her daughters.

Wulff's classmate Suzanne Moshier said, "I like dancing. It's a nice interuption from my chores."

For more information about tap dance lessons, call Jean San Juan at the San Juan School of Dance at 948-6287; Marti Berg at Marti's Dance School at 949-3467; or Kathi Harkness at the Los Altos-Mountain View Recreation Department at (408) 296-5672.

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