May the 4th Be With You! Happy Star Wars Day!

Hey guys! Happy Star Wars Day! I just had to share this awesome Star Wars Tap Medley with y’all by Postmodern Jukebox. It is so much fun to watch and really gets you in the mood for May the 4th 😉

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Dance Combo 2: Learn a fun combination to Man with a Hex

Hey y’all! I’m back with another dance combo. This is 8 8-counts from another piece I did at Texas A&M to The Atomic Fireballs’ “Man with a Hex.” It’s fast and jazzy and a another great song for a tap dance! After my video, I also attached the YouTube video to the music as well. My combo starts around 1:32 at the instrumental break after the chorus. Hope y’all enjoy!

Dance Combo 1: Can You Do This?

It’s time for some dance combos! So this is 5 8-counts from my piece I did at Texas A&M to Aloe Blacc’s “Can You Do This?” It’s a lot of fun and a really good song for a tap dance! After my video, I also attached the YouTube video to the music as well. My combo starts around 0:24 seconds. Hope y’all enjoy!

How to Warm-Up those Tappin’ Feet: Video of my warm-up combo

Hey y’all! So check out my video of my warm-up combo that I begin my tap classes with! All you need is some songs with a good beat. For this video I used Uptown Funk and Timber. My warm-ups are typically 5-15 minutes depending on how long I’ve been with a certain groups of students and time of year. (For example in the fall it would be longer, but by competition season it shortens so we can work on our dance!) This combo is very repetitive because I don’t teach it but let the students learn how to catch on by watching, which I think is a very important skill to learn. Warm-ups are personal and all about getting your body ready for an intense tap class. As the year goes by and your students learn more steps, you can start letting them lead the warm-up each week. So check out this video and let me know if you have any questions at all!

“I Can’t Do It Alone:” Choreography is a group effort with your dancers!

Hey y’all! I was finally able to find a recording of one of my choreography pieces and I’m so excited to share it with you! First I want everyone to watch the video below. What Savion Glover and George Wolfe discuss is exactly how I thought and worked with my dancers to create every tap number I ever choreographed. I love how Wolfe says that “tension is the worst thing you can bring into the room” and the importance of mess to “create something something wonderful.” You definitely have to feel the room and work with the dancers you have to create something that works for everyone and by having a fun, production atmosphere, you can end up with an even better dance number than you originally planned!

Now check out one of my first choreography pieces, “I Can’t Do It Alone” from Chicago the Musical. It’s a mix of musical theater and tap and was a way for me to branch out from just pure tap dances. After this, I even expanded to doing jazz and musical theatre pieces without tap. While tap will always remain my main passion and joy, I did get more dancers to audition for the jazz/musical theater pieces just because more dancers do this style. Hope you enjoy this! And then because like any art form, tap choreograph can always be worked on longer and keep improving in my opinion, check out the attached podcast to listen to my thought process and analyze of this dance!

Singin’ in the Rain opened in theaters 65 years ago today and danced right into our hearts, like these other fun tap numbers!

Singin’ in the Rain is 65 years old today! That is when it danced into theaters and our hearts. So this blog post is dedicated to those famous “classic” tap dancers and some of their most popular numbers. My first two clips are in honor of Singin’ in the Rain. I have already shared Moses Supposes in a previous post (check it out if you haven’t) and these are the other most famous numbers from that movie. While watching this dance below, it’s a fun fact (though not for Gene Kelly) that due to the buckets of water being poured on him, Gene Kelly was sick during this filming. Also, if you watch closely you will see that the pants of his wool suit shrinks due to the water throughout the dance. It’s a classic for all tap dancers so enjoy!

This is another popular classic from Singin’ in the Rain. The song might seem familiar thanks to the Tropicana orange juice commercial. This has it all with dancing on stairs, using rain coats as props, and even tipping over a couch! ‘Good Morning’ is my favorite dance number in Singin’ in the Rain. Check out Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Gene Kelly below!

Keeping with Gene Kelly classics, the next number is “I Got Rhythm” from An American in Paris. This is a heartwarming number in how he interacts with the children and he shows amazing skill (especially at the end with those crazy fast turns).

Besides Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire is the other big name in the tap world. While he has many tap numbers, I decided on this clip because it was so ground breaking in how he moves around the room dancing on the walls and ceiling. (Remember “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins, I wonder if this inspired that in anyway…) It’s a zero gravity tap dance!

What more can you ask for than two tap geniuses in one great mini-tap story! The Babbitt and the Bromide was a fantastic find on YouTube years ago and I’m so excited to share it. I love this video because it really highlights the different styles between Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly: grace vs. athleticism.

My next videos focus on some of the great female tap dancers I mentioned in my Women’s Day post! First up is Eleanor Powell dancing with Fred Astaire. He stated that she was one of the greatest tap dancers (not “female” tap dancer but of all them). However, later on it seems he was intimated by her skills as he called her style mannish and consider her too big for his partner. Due to her advance skills, he ended up following her, which probably felt unnatural to him since he was used to his partners follow his male lead. She has many dance clips that feature her as a solo performer unlike many of the other female dancers of this time.

Vera Ellen is a good example of a female dancer who always had a male partner. She was considered Gene Kelly’s favorite partner due to her great skills and that her size complimented his in film. Check out them dancing together in the movie On The Town. However, I want to showcase her in “Choreography” from White Christmas! While this number was weird and boring to me as a kid, now that I am older I really appreciate the concept behind it. They are contrasting the old ways of dance to the new styles of Martha Graham and Bob Fosse that were super strange and different for dancers but is what so much of dance is today. You’ll see what I mean below!

My favorite female tap dancer is Ann Miller! I LOVE THIS LADY!!! She was considered a bigger girl for a dancer during her time and I think that’s why there are so many dances she does solo because she was a tall or even bigger than many of her male counter parts in size. This number, “Shaking the Blues Away,” from Easter Parade is an insanely fast number and shows off her amazing skills.

For my last video, I had to do the classic “Too Darn Hot” Ann Miller number from Kiss Me Kate. This dance really highlights what she was best known for: feet moving fiercely fast and keeping her upper body calm and collected. This should be every tap dancers goal, because it is so impressive due to its difficulty (think rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time but also at different speeds and vice versa…) See how she owns this number and Enjoy!

Hope y’all enjoyed some more amazing tap dance numbers, this time from those tap dance legends who started it all! Let me know what other lists of videos I can share and that y’all are interested in. Until then, happy 65th birthday to Singin’ in the Rain and listen to my podcast below to learn more about these clips!

Happy 25th Anniversary to ‘Newsies!’ Here’s a list of other musicals with great tap scenes.

Happy 25th Anniversary to the film musical ‘Newies’! If you haven’t seen this Disney film, it is a fun historical musical inspired by the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. This was one of those movies that originally bombed in the movie theaters, but since then has acquired a cult following. In 2011, a stage production was even created and won 2 of the 8 Tony Awards it was nominated for. The following clip is of the big tap number “King of New York.” However, in the film this scene has very limited tapping, evident by the 2-3 minute difference in the film and Broadway versions of this song. But since today is the film anniversary, I felt I should share this clip along with the next one of the longer and more tap-oriented stage version of “King of New York.” Enjoy!

As promised, here is the stage version. This clip is from the Thanksgiving Parade in 2012. Between the Tony Awards Show and Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Broadway is able to show off many of the talented performances within their shows to attract audiences. In the stage production, “King of New York” features a lot more tapping than the film version. Performance starts around 0:45. Check it out!

When you think tap musicals, probably one of the oldest, most classic film musicals featuring many tap numbers was 42nd Street (1933) show adapted from the novel by Bradford Ropes. In the 80s, it became a Broadway show and was revived in 2001. As you watch the next video, you will see what I mean with I say this is a TAP FILLED musical.

For women tappers on Broadway, Sutton Foster is a big name! My tap group reenacted this number for one of our spring shows in Dance Arts Society, with our own twists to make it a complete dance. Below is her performing at the Tony Awards for Anything Goes.

Another Sutton Foster classic! Here she plays Millie, a small town girl who moves to the big city in the roaring 20s. This clip is “Forget about the Boy,” a super fun number that makes a great tap piece for recitals and competitions. (I’m speaking from experience!)

This is a more recent production. I totally didn’t expect to see tap in Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, but it was an exciting surprise in this Tony Awards performance!

In “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins, the choreographers took tap to a new level by having Bert tap dance on the ceiling of the stage! I saw this performance live and it was so cool to watch in person. They literally took tap dance to new heights!

To finish this post off, I have to share this video from Holiday Inn. Talk about taking tap to the new level. For this dance, the character uses firecrackers in celebration of Independence Day. It’s a very well done number (made famous by Fred Astaire in the film version of Holiday Inn) and sadly I couldn’t find the entire dance, but enjoy this short clip! And yes, that is Corbin Bleu from High School Musical.

In this performance, the tap dancers juggle, use multiple props, and even jump rope while tap dancing to “Shaking the Blues Away”, the Christmas themed number in Holiday Inn! I can’t even imagine how difficult this must be (but I really want to try the jump rope tapping). It is truly amazing to watch!

Hope you enjoyed all these clips of famous tap numbers from musicals! This is by far not a complete list, so my next post will feature more awesome tap dances for y’all to check out! Until then, wishing everyone the best!

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!

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).

I 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!