The girls from Tappercise finished running through “Hillbilly Shoes.”
There was more work to be done, obviously, but plenty of time to smooth out the kinks before their benefit performance for Tidewell Hospice on March 2. It will be at the Venice Gardens Civic Center, and it will be the 22nd and last performance.
Once the benefit is over, Tappercise will stick to performing their hybrid form of tap dancing and clogging in shows that don’t require ticket sales and advertising.
The show will go on, to be sure. Just not the big one, the one started by former Englewood resident Sharon de Marc, who mounted the first one just before her mother died of congestive heart failure under the care of Tidewell.
““My mom and I started a Tappercise class in Englewood, and we were doing little shows for no money,” Sharon recalled during a rehearsal break. “And then my mom got sick. Before she died, she said to the Tidewell people, ‘My daughter is going to do something special for all your loving care.’ She said to me, ‘Why don’t you do a show to benefit them?’
They put on the show on a donation basis while her mother was still alive. They drew a few people, raised a couple hundred dollars and gave it to hospice.
After Sharon’s mother died, they started doing it annually.
“I didn’t have plans to do an annual show,” said Sharon, a retired school teacher from Upstate New York. “It morphed into this huge thing at Venice Theater with all these different acts.”
Over the years, it has been estimated the troupe has raised about $60,000 for Tidewell.
Twenty-two years later, the annual tradition that grew from that gesture will end. The show opens at 7 p.m. Eight numbers, including “Hillbilly Shoes,” are planned. The band Twice as Nice will perform between dance sets and post-show. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door.
The troupe rehearses in a barn-like building in South Venice built by Sharon’s husband, Adriel, who guests for a couple of numbers. Sharon and Adriel live in the house next door.
The barn is a small studio, with a wooden floor, a big mirror on one wall and some folding chairs along the sides. It’s home to Sharon and her dancers: Deb Congleton of Englewood, Dottie Meier of Venice, Nancy Bracken of Venice, Liz Gies of Sarasota, Jeannse Richgels of Venice, Phyllis Willems of Venice and Bonnie Wagner of Venice.
Time and trouble have taken their toll. Bracken, Tappercise’s costume-maker, has a broken arm. Someone else has vertigo. None of the dancers is young. Sharon is 66, battles chronic Lyme disease, and is tired selling tickets and promoting.
“It’s difficult,” she said. “It’s stressful.”
Then she laughed. “We’re all falling apart. We want to keep doing this. We just want to do it in smaller venues. We’ll perform for donations and continue to support Tidewell.”
Break was over. It was time to get back to work. Sharon got the girls lined up and put on “Cowboy Casanova.”
Adriel donned a cowboy hat and joined them.