All the right moves

Steamboat Springs, meet your dance community

Advertisement

Geri Harris

Steamboat Springs, meet Geri Harris.

As one of 11 dancers tapping a rhythm to Tony Bennett's "Steppin' Out with my Baby," her performance doesn't stand out from the others. Only her story is different.

Choreographer Beth Bagley beams when she talks about Harris' accomplishments.

"She has worked and worked and worked," Bagley said. "I'm so proud of her."

Next weekend's Steamboat Dance Theatre performance will be Harris' first time on stage, the culmination of a personal journey that began a year and a half ago.

Harris was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, and she happened to mention to a friend that she had always wanted to take tap classes. Her friend secretly asked Harris' daughter for her mother's shoe size and bought her a pair of tap shoes

"I wanted to tap since I was a little girl," Harris said. "It was something I could do as soon as I was done with treatment."

When Harris came to Bagley's class, she was still wearing hats and waiting for her hair to grow back.

"It was a lot of work," Harris said. "I'm tap challenged. But it's something my doctors were very excited about me doing."

Harris sees doctors in Illinois who offer conventional therapy but include complementary elements such as yoga. "They encourage you to do things that make you happy to help you recover," she said.

When Steamboat Dance Theatre held auditions in the fall, Harris approached Bagley about dancing in a tap piece.

"In my heart of hearts, I really wanted to do it," Harris said.

Bagley included her in "Steppin' Out" even though the dance was choreographed for intermediate and advanced dancers.

"It's been really fun," Harris said. "Everyone has been so supportive. It's such a life-affirming thing to do."

In Bagley's words, tap dancing is the "expression of sheer joy through making sounds on the floor.

"I don't care how depressed or sad I am, when I put those tap shoes on, it dissipates."

Julie Tucek

Steamboat Springs, meet Julie Tucek.

Tucek hasn't choreographed a full-length dance piece for 13 years. Not since she was 24 years old and her ankles gave out. She started dancing when she was 4 years old and danced long enough to amass an international resume of performances in the United States and Europe. But when your body stops dancing, you have to stop with it.

For years, she worked in film and musical theater in Los Angeles, but says "I didn't forget about dance. Once it's in your body, it's always there."

For her return to the stage and her Steamboat debut, Tucek choreographed a piece inspired by her personal hero, Bob Fosse of "Chicago" fame.

"I remember seeing my first show when I was 12," Harris said. "It was 'Dancin'' by Fosse. I told my mom, 'I can do that' and she said, 'I know you can.' That's when I started messing around with choreography."

Choreography came naturally to Tucek.

"Give me music, and I can picture dance moves to go with it," she said. "I think it's a gift."

Tucek ended up in Steamboat six years ago on a search for a new kind of life.

"I came to a point in my life, where I had to decide whether to stay in the entertainment business or find another profession," she said. "I was burned out on L.A. and on the industry. I kind of crashed and decided to take three years off."

She sold everything that wouldn't fit in her car and drove to Laramie, Wyo., to study with a medicine woman named Dawn Eaglewoman.

"I remember sitting on top of a mountain and asking whether I should go back to film or start a healing career," Tucek said. "A bald eagle landed on the tree behind me and squawked."

She saw it as a message to study Watsu massage, Reiki and hands-on healing, a path that would lead her to Steamboat and her place as a masseuse at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

Tucek didn't get into the Steamboat performing arts community right away because she wanted to concentrate on her business.

"Now, I feel solid, and I love it here," she said.

Tucek choreographed a six-dancer piece based on the tight and stylized work of Bob Fosse.

"I could only include advanced dancers because this piece demands you understand the style," Tucek said. "The smallest movement makes the biggest impact."

Fosse himself was not very flexible and had to design a dance style that matched his limitations.

"It changed the whole look of Broadway," Tucek said. Her piece is a tribute to Fosse's life work and incorporates songs from five Fosse productions.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.