Seated tap dance classes give Ohio seniors a chance to move amid pandemic

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Posted at 8:33 AM, May 14, 2021

AVON LAKE, Ohio — There’s a unique sound that fills the rooms and halls inside the Independence Senior Living Center in Avon Lake, and it’s become the one of things keeping Pat Rust upbeat and full of life.

“I think everyone agree they like the heel toe da da da,” Rust said.

The sound is from the center’s weekly tap dance class taught by Melissa Renner and her company, Active for Life Fitness.

“We’re working cognitive and physically,” Renner said. “Mind and body are one so it’s important to do that to increase their quality of life.”

“This tap bit started since I’ve been here,” Rust said. “It’s good to move your arms as well as your legs. I like it very much.”

But for Jean Lavermeyer the class and rhythm from her feet takes her back to times when she used to play piano.

“It’s sometimes soothing, sometimes exciting,” she said. “My kids used liked to dance around to a tune I played and things like that. It just makes you want to move. That’s the best part.”

Renner, who created the class, says her passion to help these seniors and others across 40 facilities weekly is fueled by her love for dance and volunteer work at nursing homes as a kid.

“I taught ballroom for a short period of time and not many could participate because they either didn’t have the strength, the stability, the balance,” she said. “I went home and started doing seated cha-chas and seated mambos and coupled with basic exercises and that class really took off.”

After starting the classes, Renner eventually ended up creating tap shoe covers for seniors to wear over their shoes to make it more comfortable for them. She also created personal tap boards in order to bring the dance floor to them.

“I have to hold back tears a lot when I teach," she said. "You just have a lot of beautiful moments and to be able to contribute to that is something that’s hard to find words for.”

A simple sound and moves are helping make a difference in the lives of seniors like Rust who never thought it was possible.

“I’m lucky to feel good,” Rust said.

For more information on Active for Life and how to become a part of the dance classes, click here.

This story was originally published by Taneisha Cordell on Scripps station WEWS in Cleveland.