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Tracy Frank, Published November 11 2012

‘More than movement’ | Adult dance classes growing in popularity

FARGO - Maggi Gadaire of Fargo wanted to be a tap dancer ever since she was a child.

Now that she’s a grandmother, she finally has the opportunity.

“I want my feet to make music,” said Gadaire, who is taking adult tap dancing classes at Gasper’s School of Dance in Fargo.

Gadaire said both her daughter and granddaughter were in dance for a few years, but neither of them wanted to pursue it.

“It was me that wanted it maybe more than them,” she said.

Dance classes like tap, ballet and jazz are not just for kids. The classes are growing in popularity among adults as a new hobby or way to exercise.

“I do it because I enjoy it and it’s fun,” Gadaire said. “It makes me laugh, it makes me sweat and it makes me think. Especially as we’ve progressed, we work harder all the time.”

Matt Gasper, who owns Gasper’s School of Dance, said the adult program has grown substantially over the last couple of years.

“It’s really refreshing to see that so many adults want to get back into dance whether it’s for exercise or whether it’s because they’ve always just wanted to dance,” he said.

Adults are taking ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop classes at the school.

While they do get in a good workout (Gasper said the classes can burn anywhere from 400 to 700 calories an hour), these aren’t dance fitness classes. The students are learning real dance routines and, they can even participate in a recital at the end of the year if they want.

“For a lot of them, just coming to the class is a huge step,” Gasper said.

“At first it was really foreign because it was a different language almost learning the different steps,” Gadaire said. “I just want to encourage students of any age interested in dance to try it because it makes you feel good.”

The students encourage each other and really build camaraderie throughout the experience, Gasper said.

Andrea Dinneen of West Fargo took tap, ballet and jazz lessons growing up and wanted to get back into it when she discovered the adult dance classes at Gasper’s.

“I love to tap dance and dance in general,” Dinneen said. “It’s more about my love for dance than exercise, but you do get some exercise out of it, too.”

She said the group camaraderie is a big draw.

“It’s just a great environment to be in,” she said. “People who have never done any kind of dance before can jump right in. It’s such a great experience for anyone.”

The classes are dominated by women, but there are some men taking dance classes as well, Gasper said.

Ballet is one of the best exercises adults can do, building on both strength and endurance, and it’s easier on the body than a Zumba or aerobics class, Gasper said. It utilizes muscles people don’t normally use – especially if they’re sitting at a desk all day – and it makes the students feel beautiful, powerful and graceful, he said.

“It’s really the mind-muscle coordination that I think people enjoy,” Gasper said. “You really have to focus.”

Students are often very surprised by how graceful they can be after starting a class, Gasper said.

“Once they understand the steps, it’s so huge on their morale,” Gasper said.

The hourlong classes are held once a week. Classes are $68 a month or $17 per class, and $10 per class in the summer. You can also try a class before signing up.

Tap shoes run about $50, and ballet clothing and shoes cost about $75.

Adult sessions are all beginner classes, and you can sign up any time up until April when the class is working on a dance routine for the recital, Gasper said.

“Whatever exercise adults do is huge and important,” Gasper said. “It helps with all-around well-being and fights against diseases like cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.”

Red River Dance in Fargo also offers an adult general dance class made up of lyrical dance, jazz and ballet for adults who took dance classes as children and teens and don’t want to give it up.

“It gives them an environment where they feel safe to explore, safe to expand and so they know it doesn’t have to stop once they graduate,” said Karin Rudd, the artistic director for Red River Dance. “A lot of adults feel once they’re an adult they can’t dance the way they used to, but that’s not true.”

There’s also a tap dance and aerobics class called Tappercise that’s offered to anyone for $6 a session.

One of the stories that really stuck with Rudd was about a student taking Tappercise who had ovarian cancer, she said. The student had lost some of sensation in her feet and legs, but after taking tap, those feelings started coming back, Rudd said.

“It touched my heart that just a simple class once a week could help her health and wellbeing,” Rudd said. “If people would realize, just doing that, it’s fun, it’s challenging. It’s also wonderful for the mind because you have to coordinate your feet and your mind together. It’s more than just movement and getting into a rhythm. It’s a lot of coordination.”