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Thousands Tap Dance Through Manhattan

August 23, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ It was perfect weather Sunday for dancing in the streets of midtown Manhattan. Temperatures hovered in the low to mid-70s, and 3,859 people tap danced to Irving Berlin’s ″Steppin’ Out″ at a record-setting romp.

″Shuffle, shuffle, ball-change-step,″ coached Karen Hogg, 35, one of 150 tap dance captains who volunteered to spend the morning teaching a dozen would-be hoofers how to swish and stomp the sidewalk for ″Tap-O-Mania.″

The captains learned the routine themselves one evening last week in preparation for the event, which was sponsored by Macy’s department store. The total of tapsters set a new record, breaking last year’s mark of 3,783 dancers, organizers said.

Fortunately for the dancers, the city had a taste of fall weather; the temperature at noon was 74 degrees. It was almost 10 degrees higher - 83 - on the same day last year.

New York has held the Guinness world record since 1984, when it recaptured the title from Australia, said Macy’s spokeswoman Judy Cohn. Tap-O-Mania first stepped off in 1979.

There were folks from Scotland, England, Antigua, France and Canada tap- dancing Sunday, but nobody from Australia.

″It’s really wonderful ... that another country took us on,″ said Jean McFaddin, Macy’s director of special productions. But, she said, ″We can’t let that record get away from us.″

Sunday morning, the 34th Street sidewalk between 7th Avenue and Broadway was a jumble of men, women and children in yellow T-shirts - gifts from Macy’s - stumbling behind their instructors and waving styrofoam boater hats as they learned the routine.

At noon, the sea of yellow surged onto 34th Street beside Macy’s, and choreographer Kathy Gergin called the steps for those 3,859 dancers, while a recording played of ″Steppin’ Out″ as sung by the late Fred Astaire.

Some participants said they just happened to be passing by, like Malmaison Pascaline, 24, of Mery-Sur-Oise, France, who was visiting New York.

Other participants claimed such far-away hometowns as Glendale, Ariz., Palo Alto, Calif., Oconomowoc, Wis., and Baton Rouge, La.

Some had planned their tap-dance excursion for more than a year. Teri McGill, a math teacher at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, brought seven deaf students with her.

″Some students can hear the bass, the low frequencies,″ said Ms. McGill, explaining that the others rely on signals from her to keep the beat.

The youngest registered participant was eight-week-old Daniel Sean Wallace of Mount Arlington, N.J., who was accompanied by his mother, Tina Wallace, 26, and his grandfather, George Carlson, 74.

But Carlson wasn’t the oldest one there - Leon Van Wezenbeeck had him beat by 11 years. At 85 years, Van Wezenbeeck is the oldest Tap-O-Mania hoofer ever.

″It’s a day out,″ he said.

A five-day trip to Hollywood and tickets to ″Starlight Express,″ a Broadway musical, were given away as door prizes.

Tappers were asked to wear hard-soled shoes, and many brought real tap shoes. But that didn’t stop others from dancing in sneakers, moccasins, suede leather boots or tasseled loafers.

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