The Syncopated Ladies filming their "So You Think You Can Dance" appearance (photo courtesy Syncopated Ladies)

Tap's Leading Ladies

Elegance, precision, crystal-clear sound: They're the ingredients for a stellar tap performance. What do you get when you top them off with an effortless sexiness? The Syncopated Ladies.

From tap festivals to viral videos to the “So You Think You Can Dance" stage, these sassy, sultry tappers bring a distinct “girl power" vibe to everything they do—and the dance world is taking notice. Their current success has been more than 10 years in the making, but founder Chloé Arnold is grateful for every step along the way. “I've always wanted to bring female tap artists to the forefront," she says. “Now, I'm living what I've been dreaming, and that's a beautiful thing." Here's how her dream became a reality.

Starting Strong

The Syncopated Ladies trace their roots back to 2003, when they started jamming together at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in L.A. “I was dancing with this amazing group of women," Arnold remembers, “and I realized we should do something bigger!" Some of the group's original members, including Sarah Reich and Arnold's younger sister, Maud, were still teens at the time. Nevertheless, Arnold says, they all brought something to the table: “Everyone was highly skilled at tap, but they also had training in other styles."

At first, Arnold focused on Latin-infused choreography. Then, after dancing in a video for rapper Sean Paul in 2006, she added dance hall moves to the mix. Bit by bit, the Syncopated Ladies started to come into their own. “As the group was developing, I was having these experiences in my solo career that changed my perspective and helped my choreography evolve," Arnold says.

Among those experiences was a job assisting her friend, director Melina Matsoukas, on a music video for Beyoncé in 2007. “I was so inspired watching Beyoncé," Arnold says. “The way she commands the space, her energy, her music, her movement. She has fire and passion and presence, while simultaneously being kind and an extremely hard worker. I said to myself, 'I want to see that in my choreography and dancing.' "

The Ladies working it for the "So You Think You Can Dance" cameras (photo courtesy Syncopated Ladies)

Picking Up Steam

Energized by working with Beyoncé, Arnold took her new ideas to the rest of the Syncopated Ladies. “I told them, 'I want to rock out!' " she says. Reich remembers that conversation as a turning point for the group. “Some of us were finishing up high school, and we knew that now was the time to jump in and do this," she says. “We thought, 'We really can change the way people see tap dance.' "

One of Arnold's Beyoncé-inspired thoughts was to raise the Syncopated Ladies' profile by making music videos. As a graduate of Columbia University's film school and as co-director, with her sister, of the production company Chloé and Maud Productions, Arnold had the tools she needed to create high-quality films. The Syncopated Ladies put out stylish video covers of Rihanna's “Where Have You Been" in 2012 and Beyoncé's “End of Time" in 2013. In between, the group created a full-length concert for the Vancouver International Tap Festival, showcasing its newfound style.

Their biggest break came courtesy of the same superstar who'd helped Arnold find the last piece of the Syncopated Ladies puzzle. Early in 2014, Beyoncé shared the Syncopated Ladies' “End of Time" video with her fans, along with three words: “They killed it." Within 36 hours, the clip had more than half a million views. “For tap, that's enormous. For ladies in tap, that's even more enormous. And for the Syncopated Ladies—it was everything," Arnold says. “Beyoncé brought us to the masses."

Standing in the Spotlight

Not long after Beyoncé sent their video viral, “SYTYCD" came calling to invite the Syncopated Ladies to participate in a new Season 11 segment, in which dance crews battled for chances to appear on the live show. “We were excited to get the opportunity not just to perform, but also to share the story behind what we're doing," Arnold says. The Ladies ended up dominating their first battle—against a crew that had already won “America's Best Dance Crew"—and gave a blazing-hot live performance on the July 9 show.

So what's next? The group is in the process of developing original music as a tap band, with the members acting as musicians, dancers and vocalists. It hosted its first Syncopated Ladies Boot Camp—an intensive workshop for female tappers—in L.A. this July, and plans are in the works for boot camps in other cities. In November, the Ladies will premiere their next concert in NYC, and they'll be at the D.C. Tap Festival in March.

“At this point, a decade after those jam sessions in 2003, I know what my vision is and how to bring it to life," Arnold says. “Although there have been many exceptional women in the history of tap, women haven't always had a leading voice in our art form. Now, the Syncopated Ladies are here, and we're here to stay."

Meet the Syncopated Ladies

(Photo courtesy Syncopated Ladies)

Maud Arnold

Nickname: Maudiepooh

Years tapping: 20

Signature move: Cramp rolls

Dance idols: Gregory Hines and

Debbie Allen

Non-dance talent: Writing

Most memorable onstage moment: “Receiving the official Mayoral Proclamation making April 12 D.C. Tap Fest Day!"

Advice for Dance Spirit's readers: “Always love and believe in yourself first."

Melissa Naves Tannús

Nickname: Mel

Years tapping: 15

Signature move: Samba

Dance idols: “My Syncopated sisters"

Non-dance talent: Playing the guitar

Most memorable onstage moment: “Dancing a solo dedicated to my mom right after she passed away. I cried through the whole performance."

Advice for Dance Spirit's readers: “Believe in yourself. You are capable of doing anything you want if you believe in it."

Anissa Lee

Nickname: Charles

Years tapping: 10

Signature move: Over-the-tops

Dance idols: Clayton “Peg Leg" Bates and Mable Lee

Non-dance talents: Fashion illustration and design

Most memorable onstage moment: “My first time dancing with the Syncopated Ladies when I was 15 years old, during the L.A. Tap Fest."

Advice for Dance Spirit's readers: “Work hard now and play harder later!"

Chloé Arnold

Nickname: Chlo

Years tapping: More than 20

Signature move: Pull-back rhythm turn with a hair toss

Dance idol: Debbie Allen

Non-dance talent: Filmmaking

Most memorable onstage moment: “The closing night of my one-woman show—one of the scariest and most vulnerable endeavors of my life."

Advice for Dance Spirit's readers: “Love every minute of the journey—the ups and the downs. Dream beyond your imagination. Work your hardest at all times. Never give up!"

Sarah Adrianna Reich

Nickname: Sour or Saracita

Years tapping: 20

Signature move: Back crossing shuffles

Dance idols: Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Anissa Lee

Non-dance talent: “I love painting! Another form of self-expression."

Most memorable onstage moment: “Sharing the stage for the last time with my mentor, Harold Cromer, at the D.C. Tap Fest in 2013. He passed away three months later."

Advice for Dance Spirit's readers: “Stay humble and be thankful for the people and opportunities in your life! It's all about perspective. Be nice to everyone."

Pamela Faith Yasutake

Nickname: Pammy

Years tapping: 15

Signature move: “Sigidigy soogoo dah DAH!" (double pull-back)

Dance idols: Michael Jackson and Jimmy Slyde

Non-dance talents: Singing and cooking

Most memorable onstage moment: “When the Syncopated Ladies performed at the Vancouver International Tap Festival in 2013."

Advice for Dance Spirit's readers: “Strive to be your best at all times."

Melinda Sullivan (Not pictured)

Nickname: “I am mistakenly called 'Melissa' so much that I will actually respond to that name. Now, I tell most strangers that I'm 'Mel.' "

Years tapping: More than 20

Dance idols: Ann Miller and Gregory Hines

Signature move: “Probably a step I've stolen from Ann Miller or Gregory Hines."

Non-dance talent: Eating

Most memorable onstage moment: “I was 7. My costume fell off at one of my first dance competitions. Unforgettable, in every way."

Advice for Dance Spirit's readers: “Dance like nobody's watching. Because nobody's watching—they're all on their phones."

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What’s in Your Dance Bag—Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Sometimes our dance bags feel like portals to another dimension—we have no idea what half the stuff buried in our bags even is. (Note to self: Clean out dance bag.)

But have you ever wondered if there's a method to the madness? We're pretty sure there is, and as always, we're pretty sure it's something to do with astrology. That's right, your resident Dance Spirit astrologers are back with our best guess at what you keep in your dance bag—based on your zodiac sign.

Aries

You're always going 100 mph Aries (or maybe even more), so it's pretty much a guarantee that your dance bag is fully stocked with snacks to power you through the day. Granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, fruit. It's like a Whole Foods in there.

You've also usually got about six different pairs of shoes in your bag. As an Aries, you love adventure, trying new things and, most of all, a challenge. So when it comes to classes, you're all over the map. Tap, jazz, ballet, character, modern—you'll try them all.

Something else you won't go without? Your signature red lipstick, obv. How else are you going to show off your fiery personality? (And look amazing while doing it, TYSM.)

Taurus

As a child of Venus, you always want to look your best, Taurus. So your dance bag is a hair salon/makeup station, all in one. If your dance besties need to borrow a hair tie, or are looking for a fun accessory to spice up their bun, they know you're the one to go to.

Also important to you? Smelling your best. Taureans love comforting, luxurious scents, so your dance bag is typically equipped with a favorite perfume or deodorant. (Or both.)

But what's most important is the bag itself—admit it, you've been using the same dance bag for years. We get it, Taurus, nobody likes change, and least of all the stubborn bull of the zodiac. But if your dance bag is really starting to smell like feet (or if your bobby pins are starting to slip through the holes in the bottom), you might want to consider investing in a new bag.

Gemini

Gemini, you love to switch it up. So you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least three different dance fits in your bag at any given time. And your dancewear is always on point. You love to keep up with trends and try edgy, new looks.

Ever the intellect, you usually have a book in your bag, as well. You're always making book recs to your fellow dancers, and you refuse to be bored between rehearsals or backstage.

Though you might act carefree, Gemini, we know that at heart, you're ruled by Mercury—and you have more in common with your sister sign Virgo than you'd like to admit. That's why you always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss in your dance bag. No way you're getting caught with food between your teeth (or bad breath during partnering class).

Cancer

Not to be obvious, but as a water sign, the first and foremost thing a Cancerian keeps in their dance bag? A water bottle, of course. (Preferably a Hydroflask, S'well or any bottle that comes in a fun color.) No dehydration here, please and thank you.

Your dance bag also functions as a de facto vending machine for your dance besties, since you always come prepared with the best snacks, and you're always willing to share. As a bonus, your snacks are almost always homemade, since you're practically a five-star chef.

And while we're wary of zodiac stereotypes, there is a pretty good chance your dance bag is stocked with tissues. And there's no shame in that—because, really, who can get through a performance of Romeo and Juliet without shedding some tears? Props to you for being in touch with your emotions, Cancer.

Leo

We'll state the obvious, Leo. You love to look at yourself, and sometimes the studio mirrors just aren't enough. So, naturally, you always keep a compact mirror in your dance bag, just in case your makeup or your bun needs an extra touch-up.

You also love bright colors, and you're not afraid to wear more daring dancewear than any of your besties. You've usually got a couple of leotards packed in your bag, just in case you need to make a fashion statement, and they're always fun. Bright colors, loud prints, stylish necklines—you'll try anything.

But something not everyone knows about you? You're an amazing friend, and incredibly loyal, Leo. That's why you've usually got something in your bag for your dance bestie, be it her favorite brand of granola bar, a fun sparkly pin for her hair, or a note reminding her she's a star, on and off the stage.

Virgo

You're incredibly hardworking, Virgo, so you've always got the tools for success in your dance bag. TheraBands, foam rollers, tennis balls—you're the one dancer your teacher can always count on to be stretching between classes.

You also love to be prepared, so you've usually got a makeshift first-aid kit in your bag. The thought of suffering a blister or floor burn without the appropriate salves or bandages makes you shudder, and, hey, it's always better to be overprepared, right?

What's most noticeable about your dance bag, though, isn't what's inside of it. It's what it looks like—your bag is pristine. It never smells like feet, and you've got a hard-core system for what you keep in each little zip pocket or compartment. And TBH, all of your dance friends are jealous, though they'd never admit it.

Libra

Like your sister sign Taurus, appearances are important to you, Libra. You like to look good (no shame in that), so your dance bag is always stocked with the essentials: extra hair spray, lip gloss, concealer, bobby pins and a spare leotard, in case you get just a bit too sweaty.

You also love to socialize, so if this were the 1950s, we would say that you always keep your date book in your dance bag. As it is, you always have your phone with you, and it's usually blowing up with texts from your dance besties asking to make plans.

Your dance bag wouldn't be complete without your secret supply of chocolate. But to be clear: This isn't your average Hershey's bar. Libras aren't afraid to indulge, so you keep a bar of luxury dark chocolate tucked away for when the cravings hit.

Scorpio

You can't fool us, Scorpio—the contents of your dance bag aren't some big mystery, like you'd like us all to believe. In fact, they're pretty basic: For starters, you always have a black leotard or two in your bag. After all, black is your signature color.

One thing that isn't in Scorpio's dance bag? Toe pads. You love to look tough, so you'd never be caught dead wearing toe pads with your pointe shoes. However, this does mean you need a hefty supply of Band-Aids for the inevitable blisters.

You also love all things mystical and, dare we say, witchy. You're the Halloween queen of the zodiac, after all! So it's no surprise you always have a crystal or two in the front pocket of your dance bag. Let us guess…moldavite?

Sagittarius

You're an explorer, Sagittarius, and that applies to your dancing. You're always trying new dance styles, and that's reflected in your dance bag. You always have the trappings of your latest obsession in your bag: heeled shoes for ballroom, kneepads for contact improv, sneakers for breaking, the list goes on and on.

But on all of your adventures, there's one consistency: You love making memories. And that means literally—you document everything. At each performance or recital, you're bound to be the one with a Polaroid or disposable camera in your bag, and you can usually be found snapping backstage candids of your dance besties.

Your other favorite form of documenting? Writing it down. You love to learn, so you're always taking notes. You can usually be found after class scribbling down your dance teacher's latest piece of wisdom. Your dance bag is crammed with half-filled notebooks, and you wouldn't have it any other way.

Capricorn

You like to be prepared, Capricorn. And we mean prepared—for every bad scenario imaginable. That's why your dance bag is a mini survival kit. The first Capricorn dance bag guarantee? A stitch kit, of course. Losing a ribbon on your pointe shoe mid-rehearsal is your worst nightmare.

You also always have at least three spare leotards handy. After all, what if you spill something, or get too sweaty or, worst of all, show up to an audition in the same leotard as your dance rival? No, thank you. As a Capricorn, you're expecting the best and preparing for the worst.

Another key to your survival kit? Headphones, so you can drown out the noise around you and focus on your dancing. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you have the perfect playlist—for each and every occasion.

Aquarius

Aquarius, you love helping others. That's why it sometimes seems like your dance bag isn't even for you—it's filled with stuff you bring for your friends. Snacks for one dance bestie, Band-Aids for another, and tampons, of course, just in case anyone needs one.

But when it comes to you, you're all about originality. That's why you always have tons of fun accessories in your bag: striped legwarmers, colorful socks, tie-dyed sweats and more than a couple of fun additions to your ballet bun, just to make it a little more interesting.

You're also a rebel at heart, Aquarius, which is why there's usually something in your dance bag that just borders on breaking the rules. Maybe your studio is strictly black leotards only—and yours is gray. Or phones are completely banned—and you just put yours on vibrate. We see you.

Pisces

Like your fellow water sign Cancer, you're big on hydrating during dance class. But as a Pisces, you're a little more imaginative (and a little less practical), meaning you're usually carrying your water in something aesthetically pleasing, like a mason jar, a tumbler, or one of those fancy water bottles with a crystal in the base.

Unlike Cancer, you're a mutable sign, meaning you can adapt to just about any situation. Counterintuitively, this actually means your dance bag is pretty sparse. Unlike other zodiac signs who feel the need to overprepare in case of disaster, you're comfortable in most situations, and your dance bag reflects it. You like the basics, nothing else.

Something most people might not know about you, though, is that you get cold easily. We're not sure why, but it's a Pisces staple. That's why if you keep anything in your dance bag, it's the coziest of warm-ups.

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