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Neighbors: Shirley Goodman

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  • | 5:00 a.m. December 1, 2011
Photos by Rachel S. O'Hara
Photos by Rachel S. O'Hara
  • Sarasota
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It is hard to say whether it is easier to spot Shirley Goodman from across the room due to her glitzy garb or the sound of her tapping feet. Either way, the woman is impossible to miss. At 88, Goodman keeps herself busy by teaching jazz line-dancing classes and tap dancing in local restaurants and shows.

Born in Troy, N.Y., Goodman learned how to tap dance at the age of 8 from her father, an Englishman who as a young man performed in minstrel shows with his brothers.

Although there was no money to spend on dance lessons, Goodman attended the Amy Congdon’s Dance Studio, where she received lessons for free.

Many people encouraged Goodman’s family to take her to New York City to try and make it on Broadway, but it was not financially possible.

In 1940, after graduating high school at 17, Goodman opened her own studio, Shirley Cohen’s School of Dancing. While running her school, she met Alfred L. Goodman. They married in February 1943, and she closed her studio in order to travel the country with him while he trained to be a fighter pilot. To keep herself entertained while visiting a variety of military bases, she gave tap lessons to the children and wives of the cadets.

In 1989, the Goodmans decided to become snowbirds. Her husband was sold on Sarasota because of the golf courses, and Goodman was sold once she discovered the Jazz Club of Sarasota and learned about the jazz scene in Sarasota.

Goodman has been teaching jazz line dancing on Siesta Key and in Sarasota for 12 years. All her classes are free, however, at the end of the classes she puts out a jar for people to donate money to the Hunger Project, a non-profit for which one of her sons works.

“I encourage people to keep on tap dancing because it is like a lost art,” said Goodman.


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