Hey y’all! Check out this interview with Marisa Mailhes who owns the Red Door Dance Academy in Wylie, Tx. She has danced for many years in all styles, starred as Hannah on Barney and Friends the TV show, and majored in Dance at Texas A&M University. I was able to ask her some questions about tap.
What are your feelings about tap? What do you like about it?
I have always liked that tap is very mentally challenging as well as physical. The difficulty of the intricate patterns and combinations that can come with tap are such a fun challenge to me. As a kid I was very mathematically inclined and math and tap go hand in hand. I like the added layer of rhythm that comes with tap. It’s not just about what you look like when you are dancing, but also what you sound like.
What made you start tap? Why did you stick with it?
Honestly, I started tap because I told my parents I wanted to dance and the local dance studio they took me to (which became my home away from home as I got older and dance became my main activity outside of school) offered combo classes with tap and ballet. I don’t think I knew much about tap (or anything since I was four years old when I started!), but once I started, I loved it! I stuck with it because once I started I was hooked and progressing every year opened up a new array of more advanced steps and tap vocabulary to continue building on what I already knew.
Personally, what do you believe the appeal of tap as a dance style is as compared to other styles?
It does tend to be a dance style that is more about your feet and less about the rest of your body. (Don’t get me wrong- you definitely still need to be in great shape and you use your whole body, but the majority of the difficulty happens from the ankle down). I think some dancers love this about tap and some don’t. The musicality that comes with tap is very appealing and for kids the fact that you get to “make lots of noise” is always fun!
Do you feel that tap is under stated in the dance market? Why or why not?
It depends on where you are and what area of the market you are looking at, but for the most part I do think tap is lagging a bit behind most other dance styles (at least today). Tap is almost its own little niche. It seems that studios, conventions and workshops are either tap enthusiasts and live and breathe tap or they don’t care about tap at all. Its like an all or nothing dance style.
How does the popularity of tap compare to other styles at your studio? Do you try to persuade students to take tap? If so how?
We have built a strong tap program at our studio so it is just as strong as most other styles. We do encourage students to take tap. We do this by offering combo classes for the younger kids- meaning if they want to take ballet they have to also take tap. I believe they go hand in hand and learning one really helps you with the other. So even if a dancer doesn’t particularly love tap or want to progress with it, they will gain great skills from it that will help with all their other dancing. As for our competition dancers, they have to take tap whether they like it or not. As stated before I believe students need to be well rounded and can gain so many positive things from tap that will only improve the rest of their dancing. We also want to help keep tap alive and the only way to do that is to instill a love of tap in dancers from a young age and keep it progressing and advancing so it continues to be fun as they get older.
According to some news reports, the release of La La Land has increased the attendance in and popularity of tap classes. Have you noticed this at your studio or expect to see this?
We have not noticed this yet, but I think the media does greatly impact interest level in dance overall. I think if La La Land were going to increase attendance in tap dancing, it would be a slow increase and we might not see it until next year. We have definitely seen and heard more interest in dance overall since the popularity of So You Think You Can Dance has grown so I would only expect La La Land to also have a positive impact, specifically on tap.
Why do you believe some studios do not include tap as an available style for classes?
As a studio owner, I have found that advanced tap teachers are hard to come by. Luckily I have been able to teach most of the advanced tap and train our current teachers at our studio until I was able to find other qualified advanced tap teachers, but I know not all studio owners are tappers. I think tap tends to be looked at as a “specialized” style of dance and so it is just not the focus. If you can’t fill all your classes or don’t have enough teachers to cover everything, tap might be the first thing to go for some studios. I think this is another reason why it is so important for us to keep tap alive and teach as many kids as we can all that tap has to offer and show them that it is also a fun dance style just like jazz, ballet and contemporary. We have to make sure there are enough tap teachers in the future to carry on the style and carry it on with proper technique.
Read more about her at this link for her studio http://dancereddoor.com/about-us/staff/