When it comes to strong dance families, nobody rivals Team Tap. Members of the tap community came out in droves when they heard one of their own was a finalist in this year's Cover Model Search. As they cast their votes, they made eloquent comments about how eager they are for tap to have a bigger presence in the dance world.
We hear you, tappers. And we can't think of a better representative for your cause than the magnificent Michelle May, voted the winner of our 2015 CMS contest.
(Photos by Erin Baiano)
This spring, during Michelle's trip to NYC as a finalist, the Dance Spirit staff saw firsthand how her signature orange tap shoes transform her from a sweet, shy teen into a bold, confident beast of a hoofer. The way she fuses tap and hip hop is remarkably innovative, but she makes it look as natural as breathing. And Michelle is more than a fantastic dancer. She's also smart (she just enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles), compassionate (she continues to work with Ready, Willing, and Able, which pairs dance mentors with teens and young adults with disabilities) and a natural leader (she wants to found a tap club at UCLA).
DS caught up with the busy college freshman to find out about all her summer adventures. Congratulations, Michelle! We can't wait to see what heights you'll reach.
“She's beyond amazing, and her work with disabled children is truly inspirational.
I <3 Michelle so hard." —DS reader
“Not only is Michelle one of the smoothest dancers out there, but she also has a really distinctive style—lively, spirited and totally joyful." —DS reader
“What a fantastic entertainer! Her combination of tap and hip hop is flawless, and with every step she shows us how much she loves to dance." —DS reader
Dance Spirit: So, what have you been up to these past few months?
Michelle May: I graduated high school in June, which was a big moment! At the end of that month, I went to a dance intensive at UCLA, which gave me a taste of what dancing in college would be like. Everyone there connected on a deep level—the classes allowed us to see and appreciate each other's gifts in a powerful way. After that, I headed to DancerPalooza, where I was a member of the Beat Squad and performed in Jason Janas' piece at the Capezio A.C.E. (Award for Choreographic Excellence) Awards. I danced in a Tap Sounds Underground show in August, too.
DS: You put on a really strong campaign. How did you get the vote out?
MM: The campaigning process was such an adrenaline rush. I did a lot of sharing on social media, and I asked my teachers and the members of the Syncopated Ladies to spread the word. I made paper flyers that I handed out to everyone in the airport when I was traveling—people seemed to like those. I was especially humbled by the help I got from Anthony Morigerato. He made a video for his website, Operation: Tap, about how one of the CMS finalists was a tapper, and he called on the tap community to vote. At that point, I'd never even met him! I was blown away by his support.
DS: How have you grown since the CMS trip?
MM: The UCLA intensive was a huge learning experience. I've known the type of person and dancer I am for a while now, but I think it helped me dig even deeper into what makes me me. We also took classes in some of the old-school hip-hop styles, including house—which, in a funny way, shares a lot of similarities with tap. So I've been working on a house-slash-tap piece.
DS: What are your goals for this upcoming year?
MM: To keep an open mind. I know I want to pursue dance—but from there, I'm not 100 percent sure. Hopefully, over the course of my freshman year, I'll gain perspective on the paths available. And I'm planning to create a tap club in college. There are some great tap dancers at UCLA, and I want to establish a community.
DS: What's your advice to other CMS hopefuls?
MM: Let your artistic side shine. It's OK to be different. It's OK to be unique. There are a lot of dancers out there, so you have to find the one thing that sets you apart. You have to figure out how to be completely yourself.
(Photo by Erin Baiano)
Just being part of Dance Spirit's Cover Model Search was a huge honor—more than I could ever have dreamed of. I've been so blessed by all of your support, encouragement and votes. Thank you for believing in that tap dancer no one has heard of [Editor's note: False!] and giving me the opportunity to share my art with you. I was literally in tears reading your kind comments—I felt so much love.
I especially want to thank my family for pushing me and supporting me through the years. I wouldn't be the dancer I am now without the many hours you spent helping me pursue my dreams, and I'm forever grateful to have you in my life. Thank you to all my mentors and teachers, who are my role models and continue to inspire me.
Thanks, too, to the Dance Spirit staff for this unforgettable experience, Erin Baiano for the beautiful pictures, Chuck Jensen for the hair and makeup and Broadway Dance Center for an amazing first class in NYC. And I loved meeting two inspirational and gorgeous dancers I'm now lucky to call my friends: Gabriella Stilo and Jordan Pelliteri. I'm honored to have shared this experience with you both!
I'm so humbled by this opportunity, and so happy to have been able to share my passion for tap with all of you.