Melissa Renner, founder of Active For Life Fitness, not only creates dance classes that keep her older clients active, she’s an inventor, too. In 2019, Renner experimented with designs for a tap shoe cover. Today, her idea is a patent-pending reality. The silicone rubber slips over any shoe, boot or slipper, allowing anyone to participate, even if seated. While last year saw the beginning of Renner’s Tap Time class, 2020 fueled its potential as an at-home workout. Renner continues to innovate in 2021, creating a hand tap cover for further inclusivity. Renner shares the benefits of dance and more.
Q: How did you start your seated dance classes?
A: I was asked by a facility to teach a ballroom dance class to their independent living residents. I [was] really surprised only a couple people could participate because they didn’t have the balance or strength. I went home and I put myself in a chair and I thought, If I can’t stand to dance, how do I still receive the benefits? I coupled [steps] with basic exercises and choregraphed it to music.
Q: What difference does the tap shoe cover make?
A: I knew it wasn’t feasible to expect individuals in nursing homes to put on an uncomfortable tap shoe. It needed to be as easy and effortless for them as possible. That zipper allows you to really open it wide, and it just very easily slides over a shoe.
Q: Why tap dancing? Beyond the physical benefits like flexibility and mobility, how have you seen tap dance benefit special populations?
A: When I was going into memory care facilities, working with individuals with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, I noticed something about them generating music. They would really become engaged. It immediately made me think of tap dancing, your feet become part of the music. These classes bring these individuals so much joy.