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Class aims to improve balance and build friendships for senior citizens in Wilsonville area

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tibbles (center) has taught tap dancing for more than 35 years, and about 12 of those shes spent teaching her weekly class at the Wilsonville Community Center. Judy Tibbles scrolls through the long list of tunes on an iPad until she finds a song that grabs her eye. She hits play, increases the volume and turns to address the class full of ladies awaiting her instruction.

It's time for tap, and after more than 35 years of teaching, Tibbles hasn't lost a step.

Tibbles leads a weekly tap dance class at 1:30 p.m. each Wednesday at the Wilsonville Community Center where her main goals are to help seniors improve balance, coordination and have some fun in the process. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Dance teaches balance and teamwork, teachers say.

"Tap is very good for your bones, your brain, balance and making new buddies," Tibbles said.

She begins with a short "repeat-after-me" warm-up where she taps a quick sequence to the beat, and students are expected to follow along.

"I like to start this way because all the great tap dancers used to watch others and steal their steps," Tibbles said. "That's really how you learn, observing and trying to repeat what others do."

Impressively, the several women in class today are quick to pick up Tibbles' steps.

In just a few minutes, the clattering of tap shoes turns from a discordant cacophony into a perfectly synchronized dance. As the song changes from Latin fusion to a Sam Cooke ballad, the pace picks up, and so do the steps. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A group of Tibbles students dance to the beat as their tap shoes help keep rythm and time.

Tibbles has taught her weekly class at the Wilsonville Community Center for about 12 years now, and she's always excited to see new faces join the group. Although it's mostly women, anyone is welcome, and the fact that the class doesn't focus on training for performances helps take the pressure off and allows everyone to relax, make new friends and have fun.

"I'm a musician, and you know musicians have love for a certain instrument. This is my instrument," Tibbles said. "I'm also a born teacher, so to be able to see (my students) grow and get better is amazing. It's great to share and see them enjoy my passion."

Tibbles' repertoire of songs transcends genres. One day it might be a heavy mix of Latin and swing. The next week they might focus on funkier tunes, or dance to a more classical style.

When rock and roll pianist Fats Domino passed away last October, some of Tibbles students suggested adding a few of his songs into the mix, and today Fat's music is cycled in with the rest of Tibble's discography.

As the classmates work through their training, trying out new sequences of steps and learning new skills to add to their moves, there's a lot of smiles and laughter. The class's open format allows Tibbles to split her time evenly so she can give each student the attention they need to improve.

The best part, she says, is how open and welcoming the class is when new students join.

"We're open to whoever would like to come try us out and connect with tap like we do," she said.

Contact Wilsonville Spokesman reporter Sam Stites at 503-636-1281 ext. 302 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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