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To enhance your reading experience, this edition of Encore Performance contains embedded videos of the Tap Pups performing.
The inspiring true story of a woman who learned that it’s never too late to live the life you want
As a young girl growing up in the 1950s in central Pennsylvania, Vicki Grubic Riordan idolized stars like Shirley Temple and Gene Kelly. She soon found her calling as a dance instructor, but like many baby boomers, she put her passion on hold to focus on starting a family. Only when her marriage ended and she was left with little means of support for herself and her two young sons did Vicki return to her first true love: teaching dance. In doing so, she found much more than a way to make a living: she found a way to make a difference. With her exuberant personality, infectious enthusiasm, and unwavering belief in the magic of movement to make even the darkest times better, Vicki has inspired thousands of women to do things they never dreamed possible.
At the age of sixty-two, when her peers were thinking about retirement, Vicki opened the doors to what has become America’s largest adult tap dancing studio. She has gone from teaching fifty students a year to teaching more than five hundred, and thanks to Vicki, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has become the unofficial tap capital of the world and the home of her celebrated “Tap Pups.” The majority of the women (and a handful of men) in her classes are in their fifties and sixties, but instead of yielding to the expectation that they’d be slowing down at this stage of life, tap has helped them to get in touch with their own natural rhythm.
Tap helped Anni, 56, get through a difficult divorce with grace. It gave Betsy a newfound self-confidence, and at 57 she was inspired to wear eye makeup for the first time in thirty years. And when Jeanne, 62, was diagnosed with cancer, the Tap Pups rallied to offer their full support. Vicki’s students come from all walks of life: teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, insurance agents, therapists, CPAs, retirees—married, divorced, single, and widowed—but through dancing together, no matter their innate talent or years of experience, Vicki’s Tap Pups have found a potent source of friendship, vitality, and fulfillment.
After years of putting everyone else first, these women know that now it’s their time to shine. In Encore Performance, Vicki inspires readers of all ages to listen to the beat of their own hearts and dance through life as they were born to do.
In Harrisburg, Pa., Riordan founded the now 15-year-old Vicki's Tap Pups, America's largest adult amateur tap group. The more than 500 dancers, average age 60, are hometown celebrities and have opened for stars like Chubby Checker. As soon as she started her first tap class at age three, Riordan loved the cool shoes, the dance's fast pace, and the crisp sound of her steel taps. At seven, her mother struck a deal to do a dance studio's bookkeeping in return for Riordan's lessons. Her love of performing landed her on local television but she abandoned dance when she became immersed in high school activities. After high school, though, she became certified as a dance instructor and opened a studio, only to leave dancing again for 17 years while living in New York City and New Orleans with an abusive husband, and later as a single mother and secretary back home in Pennsylvania. She started teaching dance again in 1986 to make mortgage payments. Riordan's story is sweet and inspirational, but more appropriate for an article than a full-length book.