By Paul Capalbo
Dads and daughters. The bonds that bind the two are as
powerful as anything on the planet. Dads selflessly
little princesses while they, in turn, exercise
supernatural powers over Dad's will and his wallet through
the skillful use
of pouty lips and teary eyes.
Want proof? One fateful day, at my eldest daughter's dance
school, I found myself pondering a very delicate question.
Not just me, but whole gaggle of Dads with the same
perplexed look on their faces. We had been posed a
our young, pigtailed charges: "Would we be willing to
perform in a Dads-only tap dance number in their Spring
Their question was skillfully delivered complete with
angelic faces contorted in full pout mode with eyes
brimming--just in case. We all knew the outcome and, to
the man agreed, reluctantly, to take dance lessons from
instructor. Abiding by the cardinal rule of Daddyhood,
keeping your promises, my thoughts raced to
Perhaps this little "adventure" could actually be a good
thing-maybe even fun?
The first night of class convinced me otherwise. Arriving
at the studio, I turned the corner into the classroom only
to behold, hovering at the back of the room, the rest of
the snookered Dads, nervously shuffling their feet.
I could read minds. All thoughts were the same: "Get us
out of here!" No one moved. Having ruled that option out
kicked into high, desperate gear. Meaningless sports
chatter broke the silence, quickly followed by the
complaining. We might've even discussed our kids but they
were the reason we're here in the first place, so that
taboo. We grasped for any masculine lifeline amongst our
surroundings of mirrors, pink walls, and dance slippers.
Eventually the conversation petered out. And then? She
Gliding atop, long, thin, muscular legs our instructor
enter the room. Sporting a dark (well fitting I might add)
she clickety clacked her way to the front of the class in
her black tap shoes. I glanced over to my shoebox in the
where my own tap shoes lay waiting, poised for the
opportunity to steal my dignity. They wouldn't have to
wait much longer.
She twirled around to face us, her smiling face turning
grim as she measured her "recruits". It was clear she was
"How am I going to get these sorry guys to dance?" Who
could blame her? We were a pitiful sight. Overweight and
under-conditioned, picturing us circling her dance floor
on tippy toes must've sickened her. I know it did me.
Wait a minute! Did she just roll her eyes?
One consolation to this embarrassment was the opportunity
to watch her move about the room, her graceful motion
her previous life as a Radio City Music Hall Rockette. But
even this pleasant distraction became short-lived,
her apparent natural ability to inflict pain-a lot. It
began with "warm ups". Masochistic rituals, which would
the start of each class. They were intended to stretch the
tendons and loosen the joints (so we can just begin to
Our tendons twanged like guitar strings and our distended
bellies were constantly in the way. Our bodies protested
exercise. In hibernation for years, each muscle screamed
awake, some for the first time since grammar school. Hello
I eyed the doorway seriously considering making a break
for it when she directed our attention to "The Bar". It
innocent looking piece of equipment attached just below a
huge mirror. We obediently "bellied up to it".
We were commanded to raise one leg up onto the bar. Er...what?
This thing sits more than four feet above the floor.
Hmmm...I'm five and a half feet tall. Let's see...that
puts my leg in the roughly the same horizontal plane as my
I don't think it's ever been in that neighborhood before.
We all froze while waiting for each other to make a move.
As if on queue we all reached for the bar, running our
hands along, handyman style, checking its grain, faking a
measure of its craftsmanship. Hmm. Good bar. Used good
wood. Coulda made this myself. All of a sudden one
broke rank and launched his leg up onto the bar. Figures.
It was my "best" friend, who happened to be the tallest
At six foot three his effort was equivalent to me lifting
my leg up on a curb. Yet there he was, glibly smiling at
of us with his size 12 resting comfortably, barely level
with his gut. Where's the fairness in that?
"Paul!" shouted the "Sergeant". "Put your foot on the
bar!" My head snapped forward, eyes wide-a little high
cheating-on-the-test deja vu here. I protested meekly,
almost whispering, "Uh...the bar's kinda high" -hoping to
a compassionate chord within her. Nope. "You can do it!"
she lied. The gauntlet was down. Pride was stake. Looks
leg's gotta go up. Gritting my teeth I launched my leg
skyward, hamstrings strumming and my entire body
shuttering. My foot
slammed down on the bar, wedged into place, my body was
twitching like a taut, bowstring. Yet I somehow forced my
face and, turning to my tall neighbor, and former friend,
and smiled (grimaced actually). Relief was just setting
in, and I
dared to think the worst was over when she uttered those
beautiful words, "Ok guys. Bring those legs down!" Until
spandexed Nazi barked out her next order, "Now the OTHER
Warm ups aside, the dance lessons were enlightening and
downright educational. We discovered that tap dancing is
sobriety test: 95% balance and 5% technique. Weight
distribution and physics play a huge role. Now since all
of us Dads
were packing spare tires right above our belts we were
stretching the bounds of natural laws and when she added
touches to our startup regimen there was enough collective
gastric pressure in that room to launch the Shuttle.
Despite our initial reservations it wasn't long before the
four of us brought some semblance of art to the dance
Determined, we practiced each novice step choreographed
for us, over and over. We had soon shuffled, kipped, and
way up to the recital's opening night. Doubling as
stagehands was good because it occupied our minds until
and when we donned our costumes for the number it
transformed us from coach potatoes into a quartet of Gene
wannabes--with attitudes. Once the lights were up and we
launched out, ignoring the missed steps, wrong turns and
Turns out--we were a hit! Really. The applause was loud,
surprising and overwhelming. I'd like to say it our song
interpretation invoked this response but, in reality, it
was the audience's interpretation of our pathetic attempt
We had merely buffooned our way to celebrity.
The irony of the experience is that what took weeks to
prepare was over in three minutes. But topping it all off
was a hug
around the neck from a grinning 5 year old with ribbons in
her hair. Each Dad's heart melted. Gazing into their
suddenly it hits us--"Okay. What do you want, NOW?"
Paul Capalbo is a father of three daughters, the oldest of
which still dances--and so does he.