Super Heroes Can Tap Dance Too! Check out Grant Gustin dancing on The Flash last week

What fun when I sat down to enjoy dinner and watch one of my favorite TV shows, The Flash, and was welcomed with this fantastic number! During an interview Grant Gustin (who plays Barry Allen in The Flash) stated that he used to tour with an Elvis themed all guy tap group. I love when shows surprise you with dance elements because it reminds us how many of these actors/actresses have dance and singing backgrounds. Check out the scene from Flash below! It might seem cheesy to many of you but since in the episode Flash and Supergirl are in a musical script, this dance fits perfectly in those conditions! Then keep on strolling to see other examples of tap in everyday TV shows and movies!

This show has been over for a couple seasons, but Psych from the USA network worked tap into a couple of there episodes. The end of “Feet Don’t Kill Me Now” has an amazing tap duet with Dule Hill (who plays Gus) and Jason Samuels Smith (the teacher in this clip) but I couldn’t find it sadly… Also Lassiter dances with the kids class for a good laugh. If you can find this episode, its a great one to watch!

This show did it all, love or hate it. Below is a great tap dance sequence from Season 3, when Rachel and Kurt go to meet other applicants for the Performing Arts College that are applying for after graduation. To say they were intimated after this performance would be to put it mildly….

This was a random find from YouTube but I thought it was interesting that a young kids show would have an entire episode devoted to tap. Gotta start them young 😉

Hail Caesar! is a movie that came out last year and has a cast with lots of famous people. In this scene, Channing Tatum says he trained for 3 months to learn the tap for this 5 minute routine. It’s very enjoyable and totally feels like something out of On The Town (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin) with the sailor uniforms and being in a bar. The film is about a Hollywood fixer in the 1950s trying keep all the stars out of trouble. While I haven’t seen the whole movie yet, this scene is great, especially since I have loved Channing Tatum since Step Up (another great dance movie for y’all though no tap)

Of course I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning La La Land and posting this clip! This is the movie that according to GMA and other sources is sparking a tap comeback with many people joining tap classes to learn these moves. Mandy Moore (who choreographed this) even posted a video online where you can learn the steps to “A Lovely Night” which you can easily find by googling.

Hopefully these fun Easter eggs of tap scenes keep continuing. Let me know where you’ve seen tap lately!

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Let’s Talk Choreography! What to consider when creating a great tap dance

With recital season coming up, let’s talk about choreography and all those elements that make up a great dance!

The most important part of choreography is song choice. Obviously there are many parts to this– your interest in the song, a good beat, what style are you going to do (musical theatre, pop, rock,etc), does it fit your dancers’ personalities? And so much more…

Next you need to consider your concept. This goes in hand with the song. You need to decide what the audience will see and what you want them to get out of watching this dance. While many dances can have very deep meanings (such as many on So You Think You Can Dance dedicated to addiction or cancer, check out the videos below), never underestimate the power of just a fun entertaining piece as well. Try variety when you choreograph.

Now when creating the movement of your dance, there needs to be variety and parts. An entire dance of all the dancers doing the same moves becomes boring. Try using small groups and building up the number of dancers on the stage or vice versa. The use of movement around the stage can be very important as well. Too many tap dances are very stagnant where the dancers stay in the same V formation for example. The whole stage needs to be used (up, down, left, and right) and dancers should never stay in the exact same spot for the entirety of the dance. I know this is something that many competitions consider when judging dances.

Side Note: My biggest pet peeve in tap dances is when dancers have their hands behind their back for the entire dance. I totally understand the appeal of this. It makes cleaning the dance simpler, but its boring and elementary. It can make an impact if used in the right way to emphasize the feet. However, don’t over use it as seen at way too many dance competitions. I’ve been sort on time before and used it in parts of my dance (but never the whole thing). If you have the time, work with your dancers to establish natural arms for all of them that work as a unit. It will make the dance more natural and free flowing, and entertaining for the audience.

Check out some more in depth choreography conversation below.

While not tap dances, these pieces are perfect examples of telling stories and giving meaning to your dances. Here are 2 dances dedicated to cancer from So You Think You Can Dance. They still give me chills years later because they are so powerful and meaningful!

This one is probably my favorite and it’s about addiction. These dances just show the power of dance and so many people can relate to them!

Celebrate Women’s Day with Women Tappers

On this Women’s Day, I want to talk about the ladies of the classical movie musical era: Ann Miller, Ginger Rogers, Eleanor Powell, Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Vera-Ellen, Ann-Margaret, and many more  (expect some posts devoted to them alone later) that are often overshadowed by their male counterparts such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. While many people associate Ginger Rogers with Fred Astaire, the truth is that while his career was long, Ginger Rogers and other partners he danced with were constantly being replaced with younger models…. Maybe this is the reason that if asked for a favorite tap dancer? the answer is usually a male. Their careers tended to last longer and they were seen as distinguished as they grew older, unlike women who end up just old; a sad fact about our culture and one that is hopefully going away.

For Women’s Day, I want to acknowledge these women whose careers were hidden behind the men and need more recognition. I know growing up I lacked a female tap dancer’s influence. There were only two I had ever watched, Ann Miller and Vera-Ellen, actually tapping (since they usually did other styles and the men did the tapping), and while I enjoyed their performances and wanted more, it was very difficult to find. YouTube has helped, but the fact remains that for the golden age of movie musicals, the men’s careers were longer and thus helped them to be remembered as legends of musicals.

Even as much as it pains me (because I love watching him), Gene Kelly stated “I think dancing is a man’s game and if he does it well he does it better than a woman.” He did an episode on Omnibus in 1958 titled Dancing is a Man’s Game, where he showed the athleticism involved in dance and performed with various athletes such as Edward Villella, Dick Button, Mickey Mantel, Sugar Ray Robinson and Johnny Unitas. Again, this shows a change in culture since many athletes would not be caught dancing these days (though I love those who do Dancing with the Stars).

do find it funny how dance is seen as a woman’s game in most genres, but tap and hip-hop seem to possess some masculinity that allow men to enjoy it without ridicule as well these days (as compared to Ballet), but seem to have created a barrier for women to succeed in these styles as well. Recently, the Syncopated Ladies created by Chloe Arnold have brought tap dance to the media and feature a full female tap group! I love this group and they have so many fantastic videos for you to watch on their YouTube channel. I choose the link below in honor of Women’s Day, but please check out more!

Here’s a taste of Girl Power Tap Dancing to celebrate Women’s Day!

And in case you still want more, here is one of my favorite numbers in memory of an amazing legend! A tribute to Prince by the Syncopated Ladies.

Now check out my first podcast where I talk about all things tap with an emphasis on Women’s Day!

Interview with Lisa, a College Student

Hey y’all! I also was able to Q&A a local college student, Lisa Smith, about her feelings and thoughts about tap. She attends Texas A&M University and is majoring in dance. Check it out!

What are your feelings about tap? What do you like about it?

I love tap dancing. There is a freedom about it that is invigorating. It is a matching of sounds like a drummer. A tapper strives to copy or compliment the beat within the music. As your skills improve, you can achieve a feeling of flying across the dance floor in a flurry of motion exhibiting great joy and passion!

What made you start tap? Why did you stick with it?

I started tap as part of a combination class for ballet and tap, really wanting to take ballet. But once I had those tiny tap shoes on my feet and heard the different, fun  noises I could make with the various movements of my feet, I was hooked! It was so much fun and just made me happy! I had to learn more and the more complicated and more sounds I could achieve, the better I liked it.

Personally, what do you believe the appeal of tap as a dance style is as compared to other styles?

I think the greatest appeal of tap is anyone can do it from very young to old, male to female, and novice to advanced, and you can dance it! The simplest of steps when presented in the right manner can look and sound impressive. Also, there does not seem to be the gender gap that seems to plague so many other art forms like Ballet. Male tap dancing is acceptable (similar to Hip-Hop) and even considered preferable by some. Most of the famous tappers I could name of the top of my head are all male.

Do you feel that tap is under stated in the dance market? Why or why not?

Tap definitely gets overlooked in the dance world. Many times at dance competition there would be little to almost no tap solos, duet, trios or even group dances. Good tappers make it look easy thus making it seem to not be as physically and mentally challenging as other forms of dance. Those who tap know what a lie that truly is! In tap dancing, your feet never stop moving. Your feet are generally moving at a fast pace and yet your arms are moving in a slow, fluid movement. Think of rubbing your stomach and tapping your head at the same time…. not everyone can do that. Tap is basically the same concept. Now add in the clicking of your heels, toes, shuffles, spins, leaps, and traveling across the dance floor and you have an exciting, mentally and physically challenging dance to match any other form of dance.

Many universities do not have tap classes in their dance programs. Why do you think tap is missing from various college dance programs?

Lack of interest and lack of instructors could be why universities don’t offer more tap classes, especially at advanced levels. Until recently, tap was not as featured on Broadway or other form of entertainment. I hope this will change and I wish I had been able to take some advanced tap classes here in college.