Tap dance is instant celebration, one that happens every week among Marianne Trowbridge and her adult tap students, who meet Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m. in the Elks Lodge, 143 Port William Road in Sequim.
Though intermediate students comprise the current class, Trowbridge has been teaching tap to beginners and up for 15 years in Sequim, first at Olympic Theatre Arts, then at the VFW. The Elks Lodge has made the class welcome for the past three years, said Trowbridge.
“The people here are really nice and we love them,” she said. “We really have to thank the Elks for letting us use this space.”
Trowbridge takes her students through complete routines to a variety of tunes, reworking difficult steps. The friendly tenor of the class is evident in the way her students spotlight each other’s best steps. Even more evident is their joy in the dancing.
Their pleasure in the practice encourages them to master what is a difficult feat of coordination and rhythm. Once the routine is learned, the pace is brisk.
“Shirley Temple doesn’t come easy,” said Tove Edouart.
“It takes a couple of years for your feet to get what your head is telling them to do,” added Charlotte McElroy. “Once you get it, it’s great.”
Learning the craft
Growing up in Long Beach, Calif., Trowbridge came to dance early, as a remedy.
“When I started creeping as a child,” she said, “I pushed myself backward with one foot and developed a crooked leg. To strengthen it, my mother sent me to dancing classes. I took lessons from the age of four through high school.”
The accomplished young dancer then studied with professional Ben Phelan. A contest audition earned her a role in the famous Earl Carroll Theatre on Sunset Boulevard, but when Carroll discovered she was just 17, he told her that he could not put her to work in the club. She was offered a spot in the club’s road show, but decided to finish high school instead.
For exactly one night at the beginning of World War II, Trowbridge became “Rosie the Riveter” in a Long Beach aircraft factory. She was disappointed when managers discovered she could type and put her to work in the office instead.
After the war she became a drama major at Long Beach City College, where she starred in productions opposite her future husband, Joe. The couple continued to act in local theater productions as they raised their family.
While running a hardware store in Newport, Ore., they continued the family tradition of local theater. In one production of “You Can’t Take It With You,” Joe, Marianne and daughter Anna Jo played the father, mother and daughter of the zany Sycamore family. (Anna Jo Trowbridge became a professional dancer and actress.)
The Trowbridges also managed a motel in a little fishing town, where during a holdup Marianne stopped to scold the robber for complaining about the paltry take: “It’s Friday! It’s early! People haven’t got paid yet!”
The couple survived the robbery and went on as a team to manage retirement communities and apartment buildings until Marianne’s eye surgery made them decide to retire to Sequim.
Since coming to Sequim in 1993, Trowbridge has involved herself in more than two dozen local productions and has served on the board of Olympic Theatre Arts. She was actor, choreographer or director in a string of shows from “Brigadoon” in 1993 through a reprise of “Nunsense” in 2011. Trowbridge also choreographed the production of “Cabaret” that opened OTA’s new stage in 2010.
Now 90, Trowbridge said she has slowed down on acting and directing but enjoys teaching tap.
Not that her stage days have ended: Playwright Rebecca Redshaw wrote the one-woman, four-character “Four Women” with Trowbridge in mind, and in the past few years Trowbridge has performed the piece locally and in the Seattle area. She makes her next appearance, along with Charlotte McElroy, in Redshaw’s “Hazel Speaks!” The piece about activist Hazel Wolf plays at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at Red Cedar Hall in the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Center in Blyn. Donations benefit education programs at the Dungeness River Audubon Center.
And she continues teaching tap. Although time constraints currently force her to offer only the intermediate class, Trowbridge invites students with any tap experience to join. Classes are free, though students chip in to defray the rental cost of the space.
Trowbridge can be reached at 452-8905.