Mother and son team up to teach dance


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N. Jeanine Baxter of Seymour has been dancing since she was 6, and that was 60 years ago.

“I danced anywhere and everywhere that I could because my mom thought I couldn’t sing, so I’d better be a dancer,” she said.

When she was old enough, Baxter taught several classes at the Seymour Girls Club, including tap dance, baton and others.

“Then I got married and I had Chris. Then I didn’t dance for a while after he came along,” she said.

When Dance Factory was downtown, she worked there for a while.

“When Chris went off to college, I was 40 and I wanted to start my own business,” Jeanine said. “So I started a studio here in Seymour called Catch a Star Performing Arts, and I did that for 13 years.”

In 2008 when everything kind of crashed, she had to stop because she couldn’t reduce her prices since her rent and expenses did not come down.

“About 10 years ago, I wanted to do something again, but it wasn’t the right time,” she said. “Now, I’ve decided that I’m old enough and I want to do something to stay active and keep my body from freezing up on me.”

Jeanine wanted to start dancing again, to get moving, make herself have to think and use her brain more.

“I felt like it was time so I got ahold of a few of my prior students who had asked me to do something like this way back when,” she said. “I just couldn’t get it done then, and my biggest thing was deciding where I was going to do this.”

Rather than pay a high rent, she decided to check with the city to ask about using the Seymour Community Center, 107 S. Chestnut St., and it finally worked out.

She and her son, Chris Baxter, teach dance classes on Monday evenings to adults 21 and older.

Classes are beginner clogging from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m., intermediate/advanced clogging from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. and tap dance from 8:30 to 9:15 p.m.

They are called Tapp’d Seymour, which stands for the art of percussive performance dance.

During the clogging class, Chris and his mother take turns calling out dance moves to the students, such as double step, double hop touch, double step, double hop touch, and the students follow along.

At one time, Chris was a member of Seymour’s Columbia Cloggers and then became director of the group after the former leader, Richard Smith, wanted some time off.

“He stepped away for some family time, and I kind of filled his shoes as the lead teacher,” he said. “At that point, it was during the time Mom had the studio, so we rented space from the studio where we could do clogging.”

Jeanine led the Columbia Cloggers for a few years, too, then they disbanded shortly after the studio closed because it just wasn’t feasible.

Chris said he first got into clogging because of his love for percussive dance, which can be described as a highly rhythmic and musical dance form that relies on precise execution of foot-based dance patterns.

The mother and son team helped out last year when Jackson County Community Theatre was preparing for a rendition of “Godspell” for the dinner theater at The Pines. Chris said his mother did the choreography, and he played in the band.

Beside teaching dance at Tapp’d, he is a member of a local band, Kill’n Smalls, where he sings and is the drummer.

Chris and Jeanine also teach tap dance on Monday nights, and Chris attributes his mom for teaching him how to tap.

“I remember being a little kid, kind of before she got back into it, she was trying to get me into that (tap) at an early age, but I had two left feet,” he said.

Chris said he really didn’t come into his own until he was a teenager.

“Then I started learning from Mom when she was working at the Dance Factory, and that got me into dance, and it kind of went from there,” he said.

He said dancing is a good cardio workout, but besides the health aspects, it’s people seeing the fun that the dancers are having while doing their routine that draws a lot of people in.

“The cloggers would perform at Oktoberfest or some of the fall festivals, then we would get some of the spectators up and moving,” he said. “Then we’d tell them if they want to continue having fun, you can come to our beginners classes.”

He said the live performances were a great tool to get others involved in what they’re doing.

Tapp’d Seymour started up this summer at the community center around the beginning of June, but it’s never too late to join the classes.

“Especially with the clogging side of things, the first hour is nothing but beginners work,” Chris said. “Probably the best thing is if they come to that first class and get what they can out of that, then stick around and watch the some of the next class.”

He said first and foremost, they want people to have fun. Another thing is that it’s a healthy thing to do and a good way to meet new people.

“The ultimate goal for the entire group is when we get back out in public and do performances,” he said.

Medora resident Missy Robinson takes clogging classes with the Baxters.

“I had a couple years of clogging about 10 years ago,” Robinson said. “I’m kind of rusty, but it’s coming back.”

Alli Quintero-Auel of Seymour also is attend the clogging classes. It has been about 10 years since she clogged, too.

“I like it because it’s good exercise, it’s fun and I like the variety of music they have here, not just country,” she said.

Brandi Ingram drives up from Charlestown, about an hour away, to take dance lessons at Tapp’d Seymour because she enjoys the class.

Another clogging student, Trisha Nichols, was 4 and taking dance lessons at Dance Factory when she met Jeanine.

She has been taking lessons from one or both of the Baxters for years, and in 2001, Chris choreographed a song for a small four-person clogging group that Trisha was in.

“We went to regional and won first place, then took it to nationals in Missouri and won first,” Nichols said. “We also got first overall small group, meaning that we had the highest points out of all the small groups, including tap, jazz and the others.”

She said it was probably the most fun she has ever had clogging.

Nichols said with the shifts she works as a dispatcher for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, she can’t attend the clogging class every week, but she really enjoys it when she does get to go.

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