Class Act began 30 years ago over hot fudge sundaes when Estelle Florey Carter and Joy Holland Coleman decided to start a volunteer tap dance group. Mary Sue Thornton joined them to form the company, and the group is still tapping away in their sparkly shoes.
Class Act is a service organization of up to 40 women who perform tap dancing shows for free. The women put on more than 150 performances annually for a wide array of audiences. They dance at conventions, private and civic events, nursing and retirement homes, and senior centers throughout the area, including the Park Cities and Preston Hollow.
Currently, there are 36 members who range in age from 57 to 84 years old. Carter and Thornton co-direct the troupe.
Previous dance experience is not required to become a member. In fact, only a few members have professionally danced.
“The stories of how people start tapping and when and how many years, it’s just amazing, it’s so diverse,” Thornton said. “Some have tapped all their lives and some started in their seventies.”
Members new to tap dancing are encouraged to take lessons. Carter and Thornton teach the routines so all members are able to perform. Nobody is required to do every scheduled show, but everyone is expected to dance at least once a month.
Thornton said the group gives their time, talents, and energy at a lot of places nobody else goes. Their favorites are nursing homes and senior centers. Carter chooses music and routines that are recognizable for the audiences.
“The music really touches them and the sparkle of the costumes, the glitter, the sequins. They really come alive,” Thornton said.
Carter and Thornton have many fond memories from performing at nursing homes, one in particular about a man who had not walked in years, but stood up from his wheelchair to shake the Class Act’s members’ hands after their performance.
The joy that is spread when Class Act performs does not stop with the audience. Lasting friendships have been formed among the members. Besides tap dancing, members often plan outings and gatherings outside of the studio.
Barbara Frank, who joined Class Act almost 20 years ago, said, “We are a real sisterhood.”
Carter said it gives them something to live for and it is something that keeps them going.
“We are not typical for our age,” Thornton said.