It’s never too late to teach a student new tricks

It’s 9:15 p.m. on a Wednesday night and at a dance studio five minutes from campus, 15 pairs of feet are tapping along to jazz. The students are dancing in two rows in front of a mirror and a teacher is watching their every step.

Despite the scrutiny, however, the studio has a very relaxed atmosphere. The students dance amid signs that read “have fun” and “sparkle.” Laughter breaks out when one of them misses a step and stops, but the teacher tells her to keep going.

“If 15 people are dong a step, you won’t be able to hear if just one person isn’t doing it right,” Michael Yousko, a dance teacher and College alumnus, said. “Just keep smiling!”

The class at Glen Roc Dance Shoppe in Ewing might seem like any ordinary dance class, but it isn’t. There’s something special about it. Perhaps it’s the fact that the 15 women who make up the class range roughly in age from 18 to 50. Two members of the class are students at the College, who, along with the other women, have decided that it’s never too late to have some fun and have returned to one of their childhood pastimes.

Starting in September, Erin Jorgensen, junior music education major, and Katie Beam, sophomore music education major, began taking the adult tap/jazz combination class. Both have a background in the art, having danced for some time when they were younger. However, they each abandoned their hobby for different reasons.

Beam had been looking to get back into dance for some time but finally got to it this year.

“I have wanted to go back to dance since I stopped, but I never had time,” Beam said. “I decided to find a school here and see if I could make the classes.”

Beam asked Jorgensen to join her since she had heard her mention the desire to go back as well.

“I had been toying with the idea of going back myself, but I never actually went out to find a school,” Jorgensen said. “But then Katie found the school and the opportunity arose, so I took it.”

According to Yousko, who has been teaching dance for 25 years, it’s not uncommon for women to come back to dancing after stopping for years or even starting from scratch in their 30s or 40s.

“Dance is a great exercise, so people come back to get in shape and also to socialize,” Yousko said.

But even after racking up the courage to start up again, most of the women are very nervous about the endeavor.

“People are very apprehensive at first. They are timid, so I try to break things down for them and then get them up to tempo,” Yousko said. “But if it’s something the student wants to do, I tell them ‘stick with it and I’ll stick with you.'”

This optimistic and encouraging attitude can be hard to come by these days. It’s becoming more and more common for people to give up their passions because society has deemed that they are too old for them.

There are also those who are discouraged from trying something new simply because of their age, when in reality, you can never be too old to try something new.

Just ask Jorgensen’s mother, Kathi Jorgensen of Jackson, who began dancing at the age of 44.

“I had always wanted to tap dance, but I never had the chance to,” she said. “Then when I was taking my daughters to dance, I saw that they had an adult tap class and I signed up. I did it for two years and enjoyed it a lot.”

There are no beginners in the class that the younger Jorgensen and Beam are taking. Rather, it only includes students with past dance experience. However, the fact that all the dancers are in the same boat in this aspect is comforting for the students and also helps build a bond between them.

“All of the women are great. They are supportive and they all just love to have a good time,” Beam said. “I think it’s a great environment to start up dance again in.”

One of the women Jorgensen and Beam are re-learning with is Stephanie Bystrycki of West Trenton, who says she was encouraged to come back.

“My daughter takes class and Alma (Ciccarelli, one of the directors of the Dance Shoppe) was my old teacher, so she convinced me to start again,” Bystrycki said.

Although Bystrycki struggled when she first came back, Yousko said he remembers that she stuck with it and danced her way back to form.

While she too, was nervous at first, Jorgensen is now more excited about taking dance classes again.

“I was afraid that it wasn’t going to come back to me and I’d make a complete fool out of myself,” Jorgensen said of her first class back. “And I did, but it’s starting to come back so it’s exciting.”

Although going back to an old passion or trying something completely new may not be easy, in the end doing so is almost always worth the effort.

Instead of sitting around bored all the time, pick up something you used to love or be adventurous and finally give in to your desires to try something new, whether it be something exciting or relaxing. Just remember, you’re never too old to have some fun.