Admittedly, Ruth Katherine Spargur, 87, is at an age when she should be tapping her cane and thinking back on old times. None of that for Spargur, thank you very much. Whatever tapping she's doing is with her feet, and the only kind of time she's worried about is rhythm. Three years ago, when Spargur, a retired Indianapolis beautician, attended the tap-dance recital of one of her 11 great-great-grandchildren, she declared her intention to sign up for lessons. Hearing the news, her family wanted to have her declared non compos mentis. "Naturally, I was apprehensive," said Spargur's son, Charles, 65. "But none of us would say, 'Don't do it,' because she'd do what she wanted anyway."

Actually Spargur had wanted to hoof for some time, but her late husband, Charles Sr., thought dancing was undignified. "My husband—he's been gone 11 years—he'd be sitting there watching TV, and I'd start dancing, and he'd tell me to stop," says Ruth. Occasionally she would satisfy her urge while attending annual beautician conventions in downtown Indianapolis. "In the evenings I danced in the old Lincoln Hotel during World War II with all the soldiers," she confesses. "One told me I was the only woman he knew who could dance the Oregon Hop. Of course, I never told Charles."

Well if Charles is watching, he has cause to be proud. Since Ruth started her lessons at 84—she was 70 years older than the next oldest student in her class—she has entered two Indianapolis dance contests and taken first place in the over-50 category both times. Today, Spargur can hardly keep up with demands to strut her stuff for local cable TV stations, senior citizen centers and dance-school recitals. (For her next performances, June 17 and 18, she'll dance with three of her great-great-granddaughters.) In addition to singing in the Chapel Rock Christian Church choir, riding her exercise bike, playing bingo on Fridays and euchre on Mondays, her hoofing schedule makes her one busy lady. She was also dating for a while there, but the gentleman made the unpardonable blunder of telling her not to wear lipstick. "I dumped him," says Ruth. "He was too old-fashioned for me."