Tapping away at ages 79 and 89


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Posted Online: April 24, 2014, 8:45 pm
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By John Marx, jmarx@qconline.com
MOLINE -- They floated like butterflies and tapped with grace, style and ease. The wood floor of the downtown dance studio was alive with harmony.

The kids -- ages 89 and 79 -- were in step, on target and having the time of their lives.

"They're amazing,'' Kim Faust, owner of Kim's Studio of Dance and Tumbling, said of her prized tap-dancing pupils, Ruth Harter, 89, and Betty Berneking, 79, both of Davenport.

"They are good, they are dedicated and they are joys to be around. They are the hit of every recital because everyone admires how hard they work. Oh, and everyone loves that people their age are so active. We all hope to be like them someday.''

It's true the dynamic tap-dancing duo are more than good. They rock.

Each has trained and performed for more than two decades. Harter, a Ralston Purina retiree, received a pair of tap shoes from a co-worker upon retirement and put them into play as fast as she could.

Berneking, an in-home day care provider for nearly three decades, took to tapping after raising her five children and helping other families along that path.

"I was kind of joking when I told people I was going to take up tap when I retired,'' said Harter, who, like Berneking, is a laugh-a-minute sort. "But after I got the shoes, I went and took a lesson at the Rock Island Senior Center what seems like a hundred years ago and got hooked. Now, I cannot get enough of it.''

It helps that Berneking and Harter are pals, practice together and are hardest on themselves. It doesn't matter -- and you can see it in their approach and skill level -- what the numbers read on their respective birth certificates.

"We don't care how old we are,'' Berneking said with a sheepish smile, knowing there is nearly 170 years of life experience between her and her pal, Ruth. "We care that we get better, learn our routines and perform well at the upcoming (May 3-4) recital (at Moline's Scottish Rite Cathedral).''

Faust said that despite many talented dancers in her program, Harter and Berneking have a way of stealing every show.

"Their routine is three minutes of intensity,'' she said. "I marvel at them hitting every step, keeping the pace and playing off one another. Their energy is amazing. They are an inspiration to everyone.''

For Harter, the ultimate taskmaster and perfectionist, there are many goals with her dancing. One, though, is all she will share at risk of boasting.

"I talked about going until I was 80, and now that goal has shifted to make sure I am still tapping at 90,'' said Harter, who took it as a compliment that others her and Berneking's ages would have trouble making it up the two flights of stairs to practice at Kim's.

"I like that I have Betty to work with, and she likes that I'm there for her. I have competed nationally and have a trophy, so now the main goal is to make it to 90.''

And Berneking?

"Oh my, it's all fun,'' she said, just seconds after the two completed a second three-minute routine, with only a two-minute rest in between. "It keeps us in shape, and like Ruth says all the time, it keeps our minds sharp because we have to remember all our steps. All of this is great for us.''

And great for those lucky enough to catch their act.




Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309-757-8388 or Jmarx@qconline.com.
















 



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  Today is Friday, Aug. 22, the 234th day of 2014. There are 131 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: The ferry boat, Rock Island, having been put in good order at the boat yard is now making her regular trips, much to the gratification of those who have to cross the river.
1889 -- 125 years ago: W.J. Gamble, for many years superintendent of the Moline & Rock Island railway, leased the Fourth Avenue Hotel and renovated and refurnished it throughout.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Pending the building of new public schools or additions to the present ones to provide adequate room for all the children, the board of education decided that pupils younger than 6 years old would not be accepted in Rock Island schools.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The fifth annual New Windsor Fair and Horse show, which has been delayed for two days because of unfavorable weather, got off to a new start last night. The parade was held this morning.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The Rock Island County Fair and Rodeo will celebrate its silver anniversary this year. The fair opens Tuesday and will run through Saturday and offers entertainment and activity for young and old.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Earl Hanson School, Rock Island, joins the Program to Assist Latch Key Student, which aids working parents. PALS is a before and after school program for grades 1-6 in certain Rock Island public and private schools.




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