Former columnist Karina Bland tap danced through her New Year's resolution

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Friday, January 5, 2024 - 11:45am
Updated: Friday, January 5, 2024 - 4:55pm

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It’s the first week of the year, and that means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions. This week on The Show, we’re featuring Arizonans who made out-of-the-ordinary resolutions and kept them.

Karina Bland made a resolution years ago that wasn’t your average “eat less sugar” kind of thing.

Bland spent much of her career writing a beloved column for The Arizona Republic. But, when she was in her mid 40’s, she needed a change. So, she took up tap dancing. Yep, the old-time, sequin-wearing kind you’re probably thinking of.

Bland recently came into the KJZZ studio to talk more about her hobby and show host Lauren Gilger the ropes.

Full interview

KARINA BLAND: You know, it was kind of crazy because I was I think 45 at the time, I'm 58 now. And I was kind of in that place where I knew I had kind of stagnated a little bit, like I needed something new, you know, and not like necessarily a midlife crisis, but definitely something where I just wanted something different.

And I had gone to see a performance of "Stomp" at Gammage at ASU and when I watched the show, like the dancers were incredible and, and there was this tap dancer who was, you know, younger than me, but about my size, and I could feel the joy radiating from her from my seat. And I thought, I want to do that. And it took me some time to find a class because I didn't want to like, you know, suit up in a tutu with a bunch of 6-year-olds or anything.

But, but, so I found this amazing tap teacher named Regina who teaches a group of women kind of middle age. We're anywhere between 35 and 75. And I started taking lessons on Saturday mornings at a, at a 55-plus community center, and I've discovered like, while I was terrible at it, I loved it.

That's so funny. So, terrible in what way? Like, what is so hard about it?

BLAND: Well, I struggled to learn the steps first of all, and then I struggled to string them all together. I was always kind of like a half a beat behind and, and I would screw up and, you know, when you screw up in tap, like everybody knows it because you can hear it and, you know, my tap teacher wouldn't even have to, like, turn around and know it was me.

What did it feel like though? Even though you were terrible at it when you first started going to these classes, were you, like, embarrassed about it a little bit?

BLAND: You know, I was at first, and then I thought, you know what? I don't really care how ridiculous I look because just the sound of it made me happy and the tapping, the tapping, I mean, put on a pair of tap shoes.

You cannot be unhappy in a pair of tap shoes. And you know, I, it was one of those things where I knew I wasn't great at it, but it was OK not to be great at it as long as I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it. I love doing it.

Did you grow up loving tapping? Like, is this something you aspired to when you were little?

BLAND: You know, my mom was a ballerina and so I think she wanted me to take ballet, but I'm kind of not a ballet girl. So she put me in tap when I was about 8. And I think I just did it for like one session. Like I had my first recital, you know, dressed in "On The Good Ship Lollipop" outfit. So one time. So I hadn't done it since then when I, when I took it up again.

Karina Bland
Tom Tingle/Arizona Republic
Karina Bland.

All right, let's give it a try. You have in our studio here at KJZZ brought several pairs of tap shoes, including my size, which is terrifying, and then even tap boards, because you have to have a board to tap on otherwise you won't hear the tap. Right. All right. So let's do it. Let's put on our tap shoes.

BLAND: Let's give it a try.

So, tap shoes that we should say are literally metal on the bottom. Like it's like a, like a short dance shoe. But then there's metal on the toe and metal on the heel and that's what makes the sound.

BLAND: Right. Exactly. And if you, you know, like when I was a kid, I would like put quarters on the bottom of my shoes that make this sound. So it's the same concept.

All right, let's do it. So I've got my board over here. Oh, you hear that?


BLAND: How much do you love it?

Oh, it's really fun.

BLAND: Right? We'll start with the shuffle. That's just this. Forward, back, just your toe.

Am I doing it?

BLAND: Yes! So then that flap that we talked about, you go forward and put your heel down. So then you get like kind of three sounds, right?


BLAND: So then you can actually now travel, right? So you go flap, heel, flap, heel, flap, heel, flap.

I don't think I'm gonna be able to pull that off. OK, ready, go.

BLAND: 5-6-7-8. See? Ta-da! See, now you're traveling.

I think I pulled it off a tiny bit. All right. Put me out of my misery. Let's sit down and finish the interview.

BLAND: You did great. You did great.

First of all, I can see how difficult it is. Like those are tiny little movements and it's slippery.

BLAND: Right. And even when you think you're doing, you know, like one step might have three or four sounds in it. And so then you have to kind of focus on putting those together, which is also kind of a cool thing that as somebody who's like, all over the place all the time, you know, and I'm always thinking about, you know, what I need to do at work or what I need to do at home. And like my head's never where I need to be. But in tap dancing, you can't do that.

You have to pay attention.

BLAND: You have to pay attention or you wind up on your face and you know, where we and we practice at the at, at a 55-plus community. So if you fall there, that's a big, that creates a big chaos and a call to the fire department. So, so you have to stay in the moment, and you have to only think about the step you're doing now and then what comes next and you can't even think five steps ahead, right? You have to kind of just stay and be in that moment, which nothing else I do is like that.

So that sounds like a pretty big reward, right? And you wrote about this, about how you, you learned this lesson in learning tap and you've carried it through the rest of your life. And how long have you done tap now? It's a long time.

BLAND: So I was 45 when I started. I'm 58 now. So, and, and like I said, it hasn't been like, I'm not suddenly great. Like it took a long time. My son mocks me because it took me, you know, a decade to get moved from the beginner class to get intermediate. And now I now I occasionally do numbers with our advanced dancers, but I freak out, like I struggle. I know it's hard for me.

So like every, every level is a challenge and you know, like with anything, the more you practice, the better you get. And so if it's something that brings you joy, that's not hard.

Can you talk a little bit about like, is there, was there a moment, was there a time when you felt like you, you got over the hump in your head with like the embarrassment and the, you know, I don't want to tell anybody about this and you ended up writing about it in your former column and like, you know, lots of people know that this is a thing that you do now.

BLAND: Well, and it's funny because, you know, I did my, like six months after I started, Regina asked if I would be in, in a recital. Now, I hadn't been in a, you know, show or a recital since I was 8. And so I was like, I can maybe do this. But yeah, I was terrified because I was like, what if I screw up? What if people make fun of me and my, you know, my costume pants were too short and, you know, am I gonna look fat and, you know, all you worry about all those things.

But when we did it, instead of kind of focusing on those things, I stayed in the moment and focused on the joy that it was bringing me. And when we were done and we took a bow, like we got a standing ovation, and it was like, you, because people feel that, you know, it's like that woman on the stage at Gammage, you know, I felt her joy.

And so that's what I hope when I perform. You know, people feel that, too, because I feel it.

Yeah, all of this from a New Year's resolution, right?

BLAND: Which is amazing because like I said, no other New Year's resolution that I've made, can I honestly say I've kept, this is a good one to keep and this one I kept.

This is a good one to keep.

BLAND: And this one I kept.

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