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.

Interview with Marisa, a Studio Owner

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/

New Tap Craze Getting Everyone Moving!

It seems that tap classes have been increasing around the country with the release of the musical LA LA Land in theaters. On Good Morning America yesterday, there was a segment about this growing craze and co-hosts Michael Strahan and Lara Spencer get a quick lesson from Chloe Arnold founder of Syncopated Ladies. Check it out below!

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/la-la-land-fueled-tap-dancing-craze-45647276

Hopefully this trend will continue to make this awesome tap style grow in popularity again! While it’s been increasing in musicals (such as Shuffle Along or Holiday Inn), it is so great to see Tap on the big screen where honestly it is more likely to inspire larger amounts of people to try tap then the stage productions just due to ease of access. It is easier (not to mention cheaper) to go see a movie than get tickets to a Broadway show… though my heart still goes to the amazing live performance that stage productions provide. I know this movie and the fun music on the soundtrack get my feet tapping! How about you?

TAP- Three Generations of Greatness in One Must See Movie

Tap (1989) features three generations of great tap dancers with Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr., and Savion Glover, just to name a few. In the movie, Max Washington (Gregory Hines) is fresh out of prison and must decide how he is going to live his life: by returning to crime or tap dancing. This is a MUST SEE for any tap dancers out there! It’s almost like a prequel to STOMP (the percussion group) in how Max hears the sounds around him from dripping water to construction sites, and uses his feet to find the rhythms. This film shows another side of tap aside from the classic Broadway styles and shows off its urban roots. Like any art form, tap has evolved from what it originated as and this movie shows that conflict as Max fights against the typical and strives for the future of Tap.

 

Gene Kelly: One of the Greatest Tap Dancers of All Time

Image result for gene kelly quotes

While Gene Kelly did more than just tap dance, he was by far one of my favorite tappers! I believe this quote says it all: I can’t count the number of times I’ve smiled watching him dance. His combination of grace and athleticism is what made him so phenomenal and why I prefer watching him as opposed to someone like Fred Astaire (Don’t get me wrong, Astaire was great as well) My Senior duet was to “Moses” from Singin’ in the Rain and what an amazing experience that was to learn the steps from the movie. The challenge was to keep those feet moving fast and the upper body cool and collected. While his iconic Singin’ in the Rain dance is great (especially considering it took seven days to film in six hours of fake rain daily and caused Gene Kelly to end up filming it with a bad cold and fever), I think Moses really shows off his talent and skills. One of his lesser known movies I believe is Invitation to the Dance and I encourage any dance lover out there to watch this film. It tells 4 stories through only dance and music and features a cast full of well known dancers. For example, international ballet dancer Igor Youskevitch tap dances in this film. This film is bold and unique in a way I have not seen anything like it. It even features a whole section of Gene dancing with animation in “Sinbad the Sailor”. Gene Kelly pushed the boundaries of dance and was a major influence on the dance world.

My Favorite Gene Kelly Movies: Singin’ In the Rain, On The Town, An American in Paris, and Invitation to the Dance.

For your viewing pleasure in case you haven’t seen this gem of a dance, here is Moses from Singin’ in the Rain featuring Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor!

My Beginning!: Tap’s Influence in My Life

My journey probably started the same as for many of you… by your parents signing you up for a combo ballet/tap class at your local studio. However, what expanded and enhanced my love for tap was my devotion to classic musicals! My all time favorite is Singin’ in the Rain (RIP Debbie Reynolds). I watch this movie when I’m happy, sad, sick, or anytime honestly. This was my first exposure to Gene Kelly, who quickly became my favorite tap dancer. His mix of athleticism and grace was mesmerizing. This movie quickly became an anthem for my life. I even used Singin’ in the Rain to decorate my graduation cap because what is more glorious than graduating after 4 years of hard work at my favorite university! And yes that is real rain on my cap… it rained once our ceremony let out, so I might not have been singing the rain (since I’m not a singer haha) but I was definitely dancing in the rain!

Graduation Cap 2016

From my discovery of musicals, I embraced this passion many times within my own development as a tapper. Many of my competitive solos were to songs such as “Forget About the Boy” from Thoroughly Modern Millie and “With Plenty of Money” from 42nd Street. Beyond just my enjoyment of tap dance, I expanded my skills to include choreography and found that I loved using tap dance to tell stories to the audience. Throughout this blog, I hope to share my love of tap with posts about dance steps, combos, music choices, and even some history on this fantastic style!

Welcome to Keep on Tappin’ Blog: a Blog all about Tap Dancing!

Welcome to a community made for all the tap dancers out there! I love videos of tap dancing and check out this awesome mashup of old dance scenes to Uptown Funk!

I love this quote and it applies to all dancers!

To finish off, one more mash-up that’s more variety of dance movie scenes but it’s to JT’s “Can’t Stop This Feeling” which I feel just fits the idea of dance in general! You can’t stop what you love!