Mary Alvidrez, former tap dancing instructor at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, has passed the baton on to international performer and Santa Clarita resident Stephenie Lawton.
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Alvidrez, 91, has taught the class for 15 years and recently retired from teaching at her doctor’s request.
Her first exposure to tap dance came in the 1930s when she was 8 or 9 years old, she said. Her mother played the piano in exchange for free tap lessons for Alvidrez.
Both of her parents were musicians. Her father was a classical pianist who emigrated from Mexico in the 1920s and moved to California where he met her mother.
Both got involved in Spanish-language vaudeville.
“In order to make a few bucks, you did whatever you knew how to do,” Alvidrez said.
She remembers having a knack for performing even when she was a little girl, she said, doing dramatic tangos that would make people cry and comedy that would make people laugh, even if she didn’t know why they were laughing.
“My mom would teach me songs (in Spanish) that were just slightly off color,” she said.
As she grew older, Alvidrez left performing behind, marrying when she was 18 and raising five sons.
After retiring in 1988, when she was 65, Alvidrez joined a tap dancing class at the apartment complex where she was living.
In 1998, after Alvidrez had moved to Friendly Valley in Santa Clarita, someone suggested she teach a class of her own.
In the class, students learned a glossary of tap dancing terms, how to keep a beat and how to perform a choreographed routine.
Alvidrez’s class has performed at the annual Festival of Trees at Westfield Valencia Town Center since 2003.
Lawton, who carries on Alvidrez’s legacy, is an international performer. She has toured with Broadway shows, served as Juliet Prowse’s understudy, been a member of the Rockettes and was the principal dancer in the 1989 movie “Tap,” starring Gregory Hines.
Robin Clough, volunteer and activity coordinator at the Senior Center, first met Lawton when she visited one of Alvidrez’ classes.
“When I went to search for a highly qualified instructor for the senior center, she was the first person I thought of,” Clough said.
Lawton, herself, said she was pleased with how much the students had learned with Alvidrez.
“I took the class when Mary was still teaching, and I was really impressed with her,” she said.
She has also seen the group perform at Hart High School.
“It just impressed me,” Lawton said, “because a lot of people when they get older they stop.”
The classes are intergenerational and held on Tuesdays from 2 to 3 p.m. Cost is $5 per class.
For more information about this and other activities offered at the SCV Senior Center, click here or call 661-259-9444.
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Source: Santa Clarita News