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Mother, Daughter Tap Experience in Dance Class at Allan Hancock College

It’s never too late to learn something new, but in Wanda Schroder’s case, she already knows all of the steps; it’s her daughter who needs the instruction.

“The hard part for me, not for mom, is putting all of the steps together,” said Wanda’s daughter, Donna Bishop, a counselor at Allan Hancock College and a student, along with her mom, in the dance program’s beginning tap class.

At an agile age 87, Schroder is the oldest student in the beginning tap class and by far the most experienced. Her daughter is 62 years old and a dance neophyte who has never taken a class. While Bishop struggles a bit to string together new steps, Schroder wishes the class would move just a little bit faster.

“My balance isn’t what it used to be, so to hold the slower steps is harder for me than it would be to quickly put them all together,” she said.

Schroder has been dancing since she was 6 years old. In fact, she danced right through the Depression, offering dance lessons to neighborhood kids so that she could continue to afford her own.

“I’ve danced on and off my whole life; I just love to dance,” Schroder said.

During World War II, Schroder helped build airplanes and after the war she took a job in Santa Maria building circuit boards. Schroder admits she has a mathematical brain, and that preciseness lends itself to tap, which, according to instructor Monique Segura, gives her an amazingly clear tone to her steps.

“I’ve had Wanda demonstrate for the class because the clarity of the sound she produces is so fine-tuned,” Segura said.

Segura said that having Bishop and Schroder in the class has had its added bonuses for students.

“As a counselor, Donna has been so helpful, just having her available to answer their questions, the students have really loved that,” she said, “and Wanda, when she joined the class, had at least a half-dozen tap shoes that she gave to students.”

Schroder insisted that she doesn’t need them after what may be her last public tap performance at a student workshop at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Santa Maria campus Dance Studio (Building D, Room 10). She and Bishop will be dancing a piece choreographed by Schroder, with music chosen by Bishop.

The song, a dance hit by David Guetta and Akon, is better known by its original title but is also referred to as “Sexy Chick.”

“I said, ‘Oh, let’s do this song,’ and mom said, ‘Oh, that’s the right tempo,’” Bishop said. “It’s going to be a unique performance, that’s for sure.”

The duo may be performing one more time if Segura chooses them to represent their class in next Tuesday’s Dance Workshop. The Nov. 20 event will begin at 7 p.m. in the D-10 studio.

Either way, Schroder is hanging up her tap shoes, but she’s not going to stop dancing.

“I think I want to do line dancing next,” she said.

— Sonja Oglesby is a public affairs and publications technician for Allan Hancock College.

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