This mom learned it’s never too late to take dance lessons

Yes, it’s probably too late for sequins. But she loves lacing up her jazz shoes each Monday for class.

Every Monday morning, I lace up my dance shoes. You read that right: I’m taking adult beginning jazz at the 100-year-old Barclay Shelton Dance Centre in Edmonds. How did that happen, you ask?

Last spring I had an epiphany. I sat on the velvet seats of the Edmonds Center for the Arts and watched line after line of dancers fan out across the stage in sparkly costumes and with huge smiles for the Barclay Shelton recital. I knew kids in every number. I looked around the audience and saw my friends and neighbors.

I realized that, collectively, we were giving our children a quintessential middle-class experience that had been part of Snohomish County for generations — and it was beautiful. It was like Little League, or Friday night football or the Fourth of July parade. This was American childhood expressed through tap shoes and jazz hands.

As I sat on that uncomfortable seat, I wished that I could go back to the 1980s and stick it out with the combo class I took when I was in first grade. Now I’m a withered 41-year-old who never got the chance to wear sequins.

The curtain went up for act two, and the teens and adult dancers came on stage. The teens were phenomenal, and the adults were wonderful too — even the beginners. That’s when it occurred to me that perhaps it wasn’t too late for me to live this particular version of the American dream.

No, I couldn’t rewrite history, but I could carpe diem. The only thing stopping me was my fear of total humiliation.

After I convinced myself to sign up for class, I went to the store and bought a pair of leggings with so much compression built into them that they could conceal Orcas Island. I dragged my daughter to Petticoat Junction, and she held my hand while I tried on jazz shoes. I told myself every single time I felt nervous that learning new things would be good for my brain. Then I filled up my water bottle and went to my first class.

It turns out, I was the only one wearing socks. Everyone else wore their jazz shoes barefoot, but me! Sweat beaded my forehead and I hadn’t danced one step yet. I looked down at my feet and back up again, hoping nobody noticed. It was too late to fix my blunder because the leather shoes would be loose without the socks.

Then I took a deep breath and noticed something else: Most of my classmates were as nervous as I was. Plus, I was inspired by our teacher, Leanne Shelton, who looked like a rock star and had been a dance instructor for 40-plus years.

It didn’t matter if I was 7, 41 or 70, I just needed to pay attention, have fun and do my best to follow the steps. Because it’s never too late to learn how to dance. But it is too late for sequined leotards — unless there’s Spanx involved.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

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