- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - The students shuffled into the room and discarded the accoutrements of who they were outside of it: coats, gloves, purses. It was time to become someone else.

Over the course of the next hour, the students of the Decatur Park District’s adult hip-hop class would coax their bodies into a sassy approximation of Beyonce. Teacher Demetruis Spidle, 22, choreographed the moves himself, something he’s been doing since he was 5.

Spidle is professional but uplifting. No prior experience is required for the class.

“I encourage (the students): It’s OK. Move how you move. I move how I move. If you spend all your time to emulate every single thing I do and don’t put your own personal flavor in it, then you’re going to miss out on the experience,” he said.

The park district began offering the adult dance classes in the fall. In addition to hip-hop, the district also offers tap and ballet, though the latter didn’t attract enough students for the most recent six-week session. Classes cost $30 for park district residents and $36 for nonresidents, and Millikin University students receive a discount.

Marie Jagger-Taylor, cultural arts manager for the district, said the six-week sessions are similar to the length of fitness classes offered by the Decatur Indoor Sports Center.

“We thought we would join the ranks and, along with the fitness classes, they can also have dance classes as a way to stay healthy and keep the arts as part of their lifestyle,” she said.

Even novice dancers can find a place. Last fall, Spidle taught 15 students who were from France and studying at Millikin University, where Spidle also is a student.

“It was really my first time learning hip-hop,” said Félicie Robert, one of the students. “He was a really good teacher.”

Her friend Paloma Siggini agreed and added that the class had fitness benefits, too. “It’s like working out, with fun,” she said.

Casey Lawson, who teaches three students in the adult tap class, has been tap dancing for 18½ of her 21 years. But while Lawson herself is well-versed, she said she starts every class with the basics.

She described the program as confidence-boosting and a safe environment to tackle the fundamentals of a new subject.

“I would love to have more adults sign up. I think it’s important for them to understand that they don’t need a complete understanding of tap,” Lawson said.

Jagger-Taylor said she hoped that the classes would become more popular once the word got out about them. She also plans to offer noontime classes in the summer.

Each form of dance offers a different type of exercise, and she encouraged people not to feel intimidated.

“If you can walk, you can dance,” she said. “Even people in wheelchairs, I’ve seen them dance.”

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Source: (Decatur) Herald and Review, https://bit.ly/1nwdTPo

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Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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