Happy Feet

I heard Maurice Hines interviewed on NPR this week, talking about the Manzari Brothers, yet another set of tap dancing brothers. Having a brother must make tapping easier or something. The Nicholas Brothers, Gregory and Maurice Hines, Gene Kelly and that cartoon mouse, and now these Manzari brothers . . . Makes me wonder what kind of name I could have made for myself if I had had a sibling that could dance. And if I had been able to dance myself, even a little bit.

I was a Doris Furney Dancer and had the t-shirt that said so. In Hubbard, there were two dance teachers in town, Doris Furney and Doris Jones. I took dance lessons from Doris Furney, because her house was closer to our neighborhood and I could walk there. When you had a mom who didn’t drive, this is how these decisions, big and small, were made.

We Doris Furney Dancers would occasionally see the Doris Jones Dancers around town. One time a group of them performed at my church and I saw one of them close up in the hallway by the Fellowship Hall and it confirmed all the things we had been told: Doris Jones Dancers wore tons of whore makeup.

Doris Furney was a shapely bundle of enthusiasm. She looked like a smaller, prettier Gina Davis with blond hair. She was married to a high school band director and she had two beautiful daughters who had that same Gina Davis thing going on, with huge smiles. Before she married the band director and started teaching dance in her basement, Doris Furney had been a dancer in New York City. At least that’s how I remember it. It may have been Steubenville, but back then, if it was outside Hubbard it might as well been the Moulin Rouge.

Once, she showed us her old publicity shots, 8-by-10 black and white glossy photographs of her in contortionist poses. In one, it looked like she had feet growing out of the sides of her head. She was grinning from ear to ear, despite the fact that she was folded into a ball.

I did not take tap from Doris Furney. Leave it to me to take something less practical than tap dancing. I took baton and jazz.  Every Saturday morning, my friend Diane K and I would walk to Rebecca Avenue and let ourselves in the Furneys’ side door, walk down the steps into her basement and take our baton and jazz dance lessons. Her basement had been turned into a big dance studio with one wall all mirrors. We would line up and she would stand in front of us and we would all learn the steps together facing the mirror. There were lots of step-ball-changes and shuffle-ball-changes and pivots with arm motions. The only difference between jazz and baton was sometimes you would have a baton in your hands when you did the arm motions.

In the spring we would have a recital, where I got to wear costumes with sparkly fabric, sequins and fishnets. My costume for “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” was a black leotard, a blue lamé scarf around my neck, a blue lamé mini skirt (years later, I found it and it was just a thin band of fabric; I couldn’t tell it from the scarf), matching blue lamé boots and a big belt with a buckle made of cardboard covered with aluminum foil. I’ll be honest: Looking back, without the Doris Jones-style makeup, we looked ridiculous.

Doris Furney Dancing was the end of my dance career, now that my husband has officially and in writing refused to take salsa dancing with me. Other than when I learned the Thriller dance, I haven’t danced as much as a step of a dance routine.

I might consider taking adult tap lessons, if it shows up in the Jupiter Community Center catalog. I’m such a follower now, I’d take almost any class that involved pleasant noises and something shiny.

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