The sweet sounds of "Taking a Chance on Love" are pierced by the crisp click of steel taps on linoleum. Raedina Winters, whose cropped silvery hair matches her silver tap shoes, clicks out the rhythms and chirps the instructions:
"Step, point. Step, point. Step as though you're walking on a street . . . You're going to have to watch your weight. You're going to have to really think." She stops talking and keeps tapping and the class clicks along, the taps a little out of step but full of energy.
"Are you folks supposed to rest or anything?" Winters asks, then pauses just long enough for a laugh from her 14 students, the members of Arlington's first and only senior citizens' tap dancing class.
For an hour every Tuesday, the old songs blare from a tape recorder and the quiet basement of St. Andrew's Church fills with the click of heels and toes finding their way around new steps.
"Let me see you do step, point. I think you're all over the floor," Winters announces, and the class splits off in pairs to practice the new sequence.
Later, Winters calls for the people with taps on their shoes to come forward. Newton Jaslow clicks across the room, calling dramatically, "I confess. I am wearing taps."
"You look at us there," he says, " . . . people you would say ought to be in a park, knitting -- and we love it."
Winters' students range in age from early 60s to "I'd-rather-not-say" and take the class for companionship, for exercise, for fun.
"It's exciting," says Winters. "It stimulates the heart, stimulates the blood. It certainly stimulates the mind. You can't tap dance without thinking."
Winters, who took dancing lessons when she was 5 and used to teach ballet and tap in Des Moines, Iowa, approached the directors of the Cherrydale Senior Adults Center, one of 10 such centers in Arlington, with her idea for the class. The directors loved it, said senior adult specialist Barbara Cardellichio, and "Mrs. Winters was very glad to have someone tap into her talents."
Cardellichio said the resurgence of tap dancing in recent years helped the class's popularity. "It's unique," she said. "And it's part of the fitness revolution."
For Jaslow, the class is more than just exercise. At 69, he is tapping his way toward a fantasy hatched more than 50 years ago in New York's old Alvin Theater. Jaslow paid his tuition at City College and New York University Law School by working at the theater, on 52nd Street just off Broadway.
" 'Porgy and Bess' opened there. And 'Anything Goes' played. And 'The Boys From Syracuse,' " Jaslow recalls. He would stand in the back after tearing tickets and handing out programs, soaking in the free shows and itching to be on the other side of the curtain.
"I always thought I'd like to be able to dance like that. But it was just fantasy," he said.
A law career edged its way in front of that fantasy, and stayed there until two years ago, when Jaslow retired from his job as a Federal Communications Commission lawyer.
"I tried a lot of volunteer things. I didn't bowl. I didn't have any hobbies. The first few years of retirement, I guess I was sort of at loose ends," he said. "Then I decided -- I've got to do something with my life. I decided I wanted to be an actor."
The law experience paid off; Jaslow landed a part as the judge in Silver Spring Stage's production of "Nuts." Then he played a lawyer in "Deathtrap." Now he's Constable Warren in the Falls Church Players' production of "Our Town."
"You've seen the pictures of drug addicts, the way the addict goes pffft, and he's hooked," Jaslow says, squirting an imaginary hypodermic into his left arm. "That's the way I feel about acting. It's opened a whole new world for me. I should have been doing this for 60 years."
The straight dramatic parts are fine, Jaslow says, but with tapping talents on his resume, he might land a part in a musical. So he had taps hammered onto his scuffed old rain shoes and shows up at St. Andrew's each Tuesday, navy beret tilted on his gray hair, to learn the tricks.
"It's great fun making that noise. I feel like a professional," he says.
Winters stops the music for a second. "Some of you are going to have to think about it a little faster. But trust me -- it will come."
The tapping in the class may be amateur, but the enthusiasm is star-quality, Winters says. She meant the lessons to be informal, with no set number of sessions and no performances. "But at the end of the second lesson, they were coming up to me and talking about costumes," she said.
"I wrote to my granddaughter in Texas," said Gloria Chaconas, 63. "She takes tap and ballet. I said the next time I come visit, I'm going to tap dance with you."
Winters demonstrates a new step -- cross back with the left foot, click, swivel, click, step, point, clickety-click. Chaconas' face, framed by fluffy gray curls, frowns in concentration. "I keep getting my feet mixed up," she says.
The counting is the hardest part, she confesses later. "When a girl dances ballroom dancing, she just follows the man." But with tap, it's all solo, and hard sometimes "getting the numbers in your head to match your feet."
But the difficulty isn't daunting anyone, least of all Jaslow. "I'll be the oldest tap dancer in Arlington County," he says, grinning, after the class. "No, I won't say that. How about . . . the most mellow?"