November 2015 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Tending to Adult Students

Photo by Robert Rosen

Photo by Robert Rosen

Tending to Adult Students

By Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
The joys of teaching adults far outweigh the challenges. To develop and maintain a strong adult tap program, try these classroom tips:

  • Establish a welcome walk-around to connect students with one another and disconnect them from the outside world of cellphones, work, and family.
  • Acknowledge students by name, give positive feedback, and use age-appropriate music played at a reasonable volume.
  • Focus on a fun, rhythm-based approach. Adults, especially in a mixed-level class, will benefit from mastering simple ideas in quarter-note time before attempting double-time or triplet phrases.
  • Build on simple, weekly exercise patterns that will become familiar and are easy to practice at home. Share specific goals so adults can see progress in skill areas like shuffles, small footwork, and paddle and rolls.
  • Be sensitive to aging joints by limiting hops, leaps, and jumps.
  • Invite a young teacher or assistant to model the beginner variations during mixed-level classes. Sharing videos of the combinations online helps too.
  • Teach the shim sham for a fun end-of-class experience.

Tip 2
Adult performers bring great energy and variety to recitals. Select fun music that will have the audience tapping along. Costume adults in everyday clothes, and put as many of them as possible in the routine—the more the merrier. Keep the choreography interactive and relatively simple so that students can share the joy and rhythm with each other as well as with the audience. If combining mixed levels, let dancers strut their stuff in small groups. Staging ideas like circles and kick lines will bring thunderous applause and have your adult performers smiling and coming back for more.


Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.