Tribune Print Share Text

Happy feet

Under leadership of skilled dancer, Happy Feet Tappers spring into step

Created date

April 23rd, 2014
Led by Mary Roever, Linden Ponds’ Happy Feet Tappers practice a number to “Once in Love With Amy.”
Led by Mary Roever, Linden Ponds’ Happy Feet Tappe

While in conversation about her extensive background as a dancer, Mary Roever can’t help but give in to a surge of energy, springing up and tapping out a series of steps. The instructor of a weekly tap dancing class at Linden Ponds, the Erickson Living community in Hingham, Mass., Mary is regularly stopped by her neighbors in the hallways and asked to do a little dance for them. She obliges. 

Such jovial outbursts are the norm for Mary, who shares her knowledge and teaching abilities with the Happy Feet Tappers at Linden Ponds. The group of about six people who also live at the community meets each Tuesday afternoon in the Overton Way fitness studio to practice their shim-shams, crossovers, and other steps that are built into an expanding repertoire of tap numbers.

“It’s free, it’s here, and it’s something that’s fun. It’s something that people like to do,” Mary says. “I’m certainly not going to do anything like they’re doing on Broadway. We’ll do the old-fashioned stuff.”

In the fitness studio, where a floating dance floor and a wall of mirrors provide an ideal spot for the community’s dance classes, the tappers warm up holding onto chairs before launching into faster and more elaborate moves. In a recent meeting, the group joyfully and seemingly effortlessly tapped to “Once in Love With Amy,” a sequence they have also performed onstage at Linden Ponds. 

“It’s crazy to see all these old ladies tap dancing,” quips tapper Kay Nelligan.

A welcome new skill 

The tappers come from varying levels of experience in tap, some with no experience at all, and all are welcome. The only requirements: “Just your two feet and a pair of tap shoes,” says tapper Natalie Shaughnessy, who joined Mary’s class when it began a few years ago.

Pamela Meyer took a few tap lessons in the first grade. “I’ve been wanting to do it ever since, and Mary gave me the chance,” she says. 

The tappers say Mary is skilled and encouraging. “She’s a great teacher. She’s a great dancer,” Kay says.

“It’s fun, even when we’re trying to learn something and we’re screwing up and we’re laughing,” Pamela says. 

While people often express interest in learning but contest they are “too old” to learn, Pamela adds, “There are many more people who can do it than think they can do it.”

A longtime athlete, Barbara Ireland was well-versed in basketball, baseball, and golf, among other activities, but she says, “I did not dance.” She let her friend and fellow tapper Natalie “drag” her to class. “I’m a ham at heart,” Barbara says. 

Under Mary’s tutelage, the group exercises their bodies and minds. It’s a “total body workout—arms, legs, brain,” Pamela says.

Love of dance

Though Mary has many years and genres of dance under her belt, including ballet, ballroom, and Middle Eastern dance, it wasn’t until her two children were older and she went to join the Hingham Music Theater that Mary found she needed to know how to tap. 

Learning tap as an adult was not a problem. “I always just loved dancing,” Mary says. She became a member of the Hingham Cabaret within the town’s theater group and performed in the twice yearly performances for nearly 40 years.    

Teaching also came naturally to Mary, who taught physical education—which included dance—in parochial schools in her area. She also taught dance to children and adults at YMCAs in the Boston area and to children at Young World, a dance studio in Quincy. 

Making people happy

Despite Mary’s current role in the Linden Ponds community, “dance wasn’t on the forefront” of her decision to move to Linden Ponds. She had been living in Hingham and knew about Linden Ponds even before it was built, but she only moved about five years ago after her husband died.    

One of Mary’s first forays into life at Linden Ponds was through its weekly movie nights. As a member of the priority list, which gives prospective community members a place in line for an apartment home, access to real estate and moving services, and opportunities to get acclimated to the community, Mary was also invited to join the movie nights.

At that time, movies were shown in the Oakleaf Clubhouse. Today, Mary attends the free, twice-weekly movie nights in Linden Ponds’ performing arts center to see everything “from black and white right up until this year’s [films].”

After her move to Linden Ponds, Mary discovered the community’s line dancing class, but there were no tap options. She waited about a year. “That was about all I could stand,” Mary says, and then she expressed her interest in tap to one of the fitness center specialists, who supported the idea to start a group. 

In addition to her teaching, Mary takes an adult tap class in Braintree once a week and goes into Boston about once a month to see dance productions on trips organized by Linden Ponds’ transportation department.

Seeing her in action, energetically dancing around the room at Linden Ponds, it’s hard to believe that Mary underwent knee replacement surgery about a year ago. 

“You can’t keep her down,” Pamela says.  

As for the gratitude she receives for her dancing and teaching, Mary says, “It works both ways. I know how happy it makes people.”