"Imagine if a vocalist sang everything in monotone," says Michelle Dorrance, whose company will perform its evening-length ETM: Double Down in England and Germany this summer. That's the equivalent of a performance without a diverse array of flat slaps, deep-bass heel drops and high, tinkly taps—it's one-note. Tappers "are dancers and musicians, and we have such a range of possibilities within a single step, from our sound quality and pitch to volume and dynamics," Dorrance says. "In order to be a sophisticated artist as a tap dancer, developing an ear for tonal clarity and understanding the physical execution it takes to create different tones is endlessly important." Here's what you need to know to go beyond the monotone.
Five women in leather-soled boots sweep their feet across a sand-covered stage, accenting the music in maraca-like rhythms. With its chugs, brushes, heel drops and slides, their movement looks a lot like tap dancing, but the sound is different—scratchier and rougher. This is sand dance. The scene described is from tap dancer/choreographer Melinda Sullivan's 2012 video entry to the Capezio A.C.E. Awards, Gone. (She went on to win first place at the competition.) “Experimenting with sand dancing really changed the way I tap," Sullivan says. “It's like playing a whole new instrument." Interested in giving sand dance a try? Before turning your dance studio into a private beach, read on for the need-to-know on this sub-style.
Talented tapper Karissa Royster made her Broadway debut this past spring in Shuffle Along, shining in Savion Glover's stylized, 1920s-inspired choreography. Royster trained at Dance Plus in San Antonio, TX, studying ballet, jazz, modern and rhythm tap, before joining RPM Youth Tap Ensemble under the direction of Barbara Phillips. Since then, she's performed at dance festivals around the world and has won awards, including the Buster Cooper Tap Scholarship. She's no slouch on the academic front, either: A Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar, Royster just graduated from New York University with a degree in political science. Catch her in Shuffle Along's run at the Music Box Theatre, and read on for The Dirt! —Courtney Bowers
Tappers! It's #NationalTapDanceDay, and today the dance world salutes you, your magical musicality, your impressive respect for the history of your art and your infectious love of movement. Huzzah!
We have a ton of tap stories in our archives (find them all here!) and we love to put beautiful tappers on our cover (Hi Michelle! Hi Gaby!). Since we have so many stories, we thought we'd highlight a few of the best, for tap experts, novices and fans alike. Check it out!
For Non-Tappers: We can't all be Anthony Morigerato, tap dancing version of The Flash. So here's an in-depth story for those of you stepping into your first pair of percussive shoes. The takeaway? In an audition setting, fake it until you make it, then turn around and get to class.
For Beginners: Ready to master the time step? It's likely to show up at any Broadway audition that calls for tapping, so make sure you can execute it confidently.
For Experienced Dancers: Is it time to take your improvisation to the next level? Try your hand (or feet, rather) at a cutting contest, a tap battle where participants are required to stay with a set beat and make up their moves on the spot.
For Experts: Sometimes dancers get so caught up with amazing feats of technicality that they forget about emotional expressiveness. The same is true for the amazing feets* (sorry) of tap dancers. We investigated ways to use tap dance to tell a story.
For Everyone: Curious about the term "hoofer"? It has an important place in tap history, and isn't to be used lightly—just like you wouldn't call every ballet dancer a ballerina.
To close out our tap love-fest, who better than some of the art form's leading women? The Syncopated Ladies are doing great things for tap, for female dancers and choreographers, and for each other. And, this tribute performance to Prince is everything:
*Yes, I know that "feets" is not a word. But c'mon, it's such a good pun!
They say that "good things come in small packages." 7-year-old identical twin tap dancers Freddie and Teddie pretty much confirm the old adage. The duo is slated to appear on the talent show "Little Big Shots" tonight at 8 PM, and will likely be tapping their way into everyone's hearts. To hype up their appearance on the show, they've been making the talk show rounds—most recently "Access Hollywood." The twins practice over 20 hours a week, and have been tapping since the age of four (!). It goes without saying that we love our tappers here at DS (like a lot), and Freddie and Teddie are sure to be making waves in the tap community in years to come. Check out their "Access Hollywood" segment below.
Oh hey there, Ansel Elgort.
Elgort photographed for Flaunt magazine by Davis Factor
You probably know the adorable actor as Caleb Prior from the film version of Divergent—and his new movie, The Fault in Our Stars, comes out Friday. But he's more than just a thespian. In fact, he started out as a dancer.
A tap dancer, to be specific. Elgort, a NYC native, went to the Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts—a.k.a. the Fame school—and fell in love with with tap after seeing master tapper Savion Glover perform.
How do we know all this? Because Elgort spilled the dance beans to Jimmy Fallon when he appeared on "The Tonight Show" earlier this week. And he put his money where his feet were, too, busting out a few moves right on the "Tonight Show" stage. (Naturally, Fallon then had to show off his best "tapping," too.)
Take a look—and get ready to fall (even deeper) in love with this dude:
Ten years ago, the city of Shreveport, Louisiana, declared April 23 "Jason Samuels Smith Day." (It's also the 10th anniversary of Dance Spirit's May/June 2004 cover with none other than the hoofer himself.)
To get the celebrations started, here are a few videos of the tap master working his magic.
We'll begin with a clip that you may be familiar with already—it's his jaw-dropping performance on "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 3:
Next, take a look at this clip from a MOVEtheWORLD charity event in 2013:
Back in 2004, Samuels Smith first met classical Indian dance guru Pandit Chitresh Das at American Dance Festival. They've been working together over the last ten years (another 10th anniversary!), and in the last few, have collaborated on a performance series called "India Jazz Suite" which blends their two forms—Kathak and rhythm tap. (A film released in 2011, Upaj:Improvise, documents the tour.) Here's a clip of a recent performance at Lincoln Center this past January:
Tap in Sweden? Yaa, you betcha. Here's a clip from the Stockholm Tap Festival last summer: