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,"
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.