Tap's Leading Ladies

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

The Conversation
How To
San Francisco Ballet's Frances Chung in rehearsal (Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet)

Even for natural turners, pirouettes from fifth can be a challenge. You need to take off from a small crossed position and stay straight over your supporting leg, from start to finish. "It's the hardest place to turn from, because you can't access your plié as much as you can from fourth," says Jennie Somogyi, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and director of Jennie Somogyi Ballet Academy in Easton, PA. "I'm always telling my students to plié more!"

If you're struggling with pirouettes from fifth position or want to refine your approach, try these pro tips.

Keep reading... Show less
via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

Keep reading... Show less
Rising Stars
Sykes Photography, courtesy Keisa Glover

At the tender age of 9, Destiny Wimpye moved cross-country with her mom so she could train at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. The leap of faith paid off: Destiny's spent summers training at the School of American Ballet, the Ailey School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet; performed for Michelle Obama at the White House; and danced beside Mariah Carey in a TV special for Disney. Now she's a full-time student at the Colburn Dance Academy under the direction of former New York City Ballet principals Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette, and it seems fated that Destiny will one day dance her dream role, Dewdrop in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. "I'm a jumper and a turner," Destiny says, "so I think it fits me pretty well."

Keep reading... Show less
Dear Katie
Erin Baiano

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I've been battling Achilles tendinitis for months—it never seems to get better. How can I deal with it? Could there be an issue with my technique that's causing the problem?

Fiona

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

Ever since starting her professional career, Broadway dancer Amber Ardolino has cupped. Using the holistic wellness practice to improve performance and take care of her body, Ardolino cupped before it was cool—even beating the 2016 Rio Olympics' purple polka-dotted athletes to the punch. But Ardolino's only one dancer who has put this therapy to regular use. Dance Spirit asked Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, and performance rehab specialist with St. Vincent Sports Performance who works with Indianapolis' Dance Kaleidoscope; and Thomas Droge, Chinese-medicine doctor and founder of Pathfinder Institute in NYC, to explain the ins and outs of cupping therapy.

Amber Ardolino in "Hamilton" (courtesy Ardolino)

Keep reading... Show less
See photo credits below

What inspires you most as a dancer? What keeps you going on the days when the motivation just isn't there, and makes you feel like all the hard work, rejection and sacrifice is worth it for the pursuit of your dream? What makes you want to run into an empty studio and create something new?

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over four decades of experience, often hangs posters with dance-related quotes on the walls of her studio, on everything from creativity to the hustle to the importance of teamwork. Sometimes the right words from dancers who have been there are just the push you need to spark your imagination and remind yourself why you love what you do.

In that spirit, here are 10 inspiring quotes from dancers on what their art form means to them, and why it's worth fighting through the hard parts:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Inside a Rockette audition (Amanda Schwab/Starpix)

Let's be real: Auditions can be rough. No matter how prepared you are, a lot of variables go into every audition—which means even the best of us mess up sometimes! Here are 7 audition fails every dancer has experienced at one point or another.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Fashion
Photo by Erin Baiano

4 hiring powers-that-be told DS their "do's" for dressing to audition.

Keep reading... Show less
via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun

Colder weather is (finally) here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.

Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!

Keep reading... Show less
How To
San Francisco Ballet's Frances Chung in rehearsal (Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet)

Even for natural turners, pirouettes from fifth can be a challenge. You need to take off from a small crossed position and stay straight over your supporting leg, from start to finish. "It's the hardest place to turn from, because you can't access your plié as much as you can from fourth," says Jennie Somogyi, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and director of Jennie Somogyi Ballet Academy in Easton, PA. "I'm always telling my students to plié more!"

If you're struggling with pirouettes from fifth position or want to refine your approach, try these pro tips.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Via YouTube

Oh, baby I'm a wreck (wreck) after watching Kinjaz's new music video.

Set to Post Malone's "Sunflower," the lead single from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, the vid features the dance crew's ever-fabulous men—who appear to have Spidey senses, because seriously, how else do they stay down-to-the-fingertips in sync?—performing Vinh Nguyen's super-tight choreography, with an overlay of comic-book-esque graphics by editor Jonathan Shih.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Photo by Nathan Sayers

Chloe Misseldine has every reason to be nervous as she and her partner run through the challenging wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote. Their performance is just days away and the two American Ballet Theatre Studio Company dancers have only had a week to prepare. Add to that the fact that ABT principal Gillian Murphy, one of the world's most famous ballerinas, is at the front of the studio taking notes.

Keep reading... Show less
Body Buzz
Getty Images

If you haven't followed through on your New Year's resolution to practice more self-care, then Valentine's Day is the perfect time to start. Below, we rounded up the best ways to pamper, indulge, and heal everything from your muscles, to your skin, to your mind. Your body (and your dancing) will thank you.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
State Ballet of Siberia dancer Yury Kudriavtsev wearing Siberian Swan shoes (courtesy Siberian Swan)

As ballet's gender roles grow increasingly blurred, more men than ever are reaching new heights: the tips of their toes.

It's no longer just Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the few pointe-clad male character parts, like in Cinderella or Alexei Ratmansky's The Bright Stream. Some male dancers are starting to experiment with pointe shoes to strengthen their feet or expand their artistry. Michelle Dorrance even challenged the men in her cast at American Ballet Theatre to perform on pointe last season (although only Tyler Maloney ended up actually doing it onstage).

The one problem? Pointe shoes have traditionally only been designed for women. Until now.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

Are you a college student curious about what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite magazine? You're in luck—because Dance Spirit is searching for an editorial intern for summer 2019!

We'll be accepting applications through March 1. Internships pay an hourly stipend and require a minimum two-day-a-week, onsite commitment in our NYC office from June to August. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)

If you're interested, please send a cover letter, resumé and two writing samples to Margaret Fuhrer at mfuhrer@dancemedia.com. Be sure to put "Summer Internship Application" in the subject line. All attachments must be formatted as PDFs.

We will interview selected candidates in March in person or by phone, and let candidates know by mid-April if they have been chosen. Please note that we do not accept high school students, or any students under 18, and that we give preference to college juniors and seniors.

We can't wait to meet you!

Dance on TV
CBS

Need more evidence that K-pop is taking over the universe, one infectiously catchy song and impeccably choreographed dance routine at a time? Look no further than BLACKPINK's fabulous appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last night.

Keep reading... Show less

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Giveaways