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~Tap Classes Put Wellesley's Best Foot Forward~

For immediate release:
Oct. 15, 2002

CONTACT:
Arlie Corday,
781-283-3321


WELLESLEY, Mass. - When dancing is in your blood, it's part of you no matter what else you may do. For Serge Genesse, 48, of Natick, Mass., dance goes beyond vocation. In fact, Genesse works as a custodian at Wellesley College where he also teaches two classes of tap dance each week.

"I'd been wanting to do this for the longest time," Genesse said. Now he has two classes, adding an advanced class to his basic beginner course not long ago. In years past, Genesse taught dance for a living. A stretched ligament in his left heel put an end to that career. But after years of life without dance, he missed his first love.

"I came to the conclusion that this is not good for me," he said.

The biggest challenge was finding an appropriate spot for the tap classes, which turned out to be Wellesley's Alumnae Hall Ballroom. "It's a large room," Genesse said of his dance studio. "We've got mirrors. We've got it all."

About a dozen Wellesley staff and faculty enjoy his beginner tap classes and another eight have moved onto progressive tap. Classes meet Mondays from 4:45-5:30 p.m. for beginners and 5:30-6 p.m. for the more advanced. Class times take into consideration Genesse's paying job and that of his students. That's right - this is one job Genesse does just for the love of it. Genesse shrugs when asked why he would volunteer time and effort to teach free classes.

"I wanted to give something back to the college," he said. "And I wanted to share my little hidden talent." Genesse looks back on a 20-year career at Wellesley, in dining and custodial services. He remembers so many kindnesses, such as the supervisor who told him to take half days during his mother's final illness so that he could take care of her. Besides, he insists, he just loves to dance.

"I start out with people who don't know the right foot from the left foot, but before long, I say "right foot" and the right foot shows up," Genesse said. He keeps students coming back by offering lessons in a fun atmosphere: "You've got to loosen up these people and get them to relax. And when they relax, I relax. They keep coming back, so I must not be doing so bad."

His students, such as Carolyn Hasgill, who works in library information services, agree.

"I like tapping because you get a great workout, it's a good stress reliever, you can laugh at yourself, you meet other people from the campus community - and it's just plain fun," she said. Once students understand the basics, Genesse mixes in a few different kinds of tap "to expand their minds." He offers a taste of such styles as the soft shoe, also known as the waltz clog; the buck wing; and stopped time rhythm. It's always a thrill to see students discover that dancing is in their blood, too.

"I like them to all of a sudden realize, 'Gee, look at this!'" he said.

A native of Maine, Genesse entered the Boston Conservatory to study dance as a college freshman. The year was 1973, and tap wasn't accredited as a major. After a year he returned to Maine to work with a dance teacher. He went on to start his own dance business, which he ran for five years. He then moved to Massachusetts in 1982, teaching dance at night and getting a job during the day at Wellesley. He's never regretted that decision, especially after his injury seven years ago that temporarily stopped his dancing.

"Whether professor or custodian, the campus is caring and friendly," Genesse said. "My friends have been there for the good times - and the bad times. Now comes my time when I would like to give back to the community."

This is the fourth year Genesse has offered his free tap classes. His next class will start the second week of January and run through the middle of May.

Founded in 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in liberal arts and the education of women for more than 125 years. The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students.

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  • Date Modified: Oct. 15, 2002
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