Dance Informa Edition 12
 

Tapping into Chloe Arnold's Rhythmical Journey

By Nicole Saleh

Chloe Arnold started tap dancing at the young age of six in her home town of Washington DC, USA, and there are no signs of her stopping anytime soon! In what is a typically male dominated art form, Chloe has carved a successful tap dance career with performance credits including the hit show Imagine Tap, Outkast’s movie Idlewild, Sammy the Musical (the life and times of Sammy Davis Jr.), and Savion Glover’s All Star Tap Revue. In addition, Chloe is a skilled choreographer with her all female tap group; Syncopated Ladies, is Co-Director of the LA Tap Festival and is a savvy business woman launching a new range of Tap inspired clothing.

Dance Informa's Nicole Saleh had the opportunity to speak to one of the finest females in tap, Chloe Arnold, on her visit to Australia, as special guest teacher for the 3rd Melbourne International Tap Festival (MITF).

What has been your most memorable Tap experience?
This would definitely be when I was a kid and worked with Savion Glover (Happy Feet). He had a group called Savion Glover’s Washington DC Crew and there were about twelve of us who got to work with him. It was really the onset of what inspired me to want to make tap dance my career and it will always be ingrained in my memory as the root of how I fell in love with the art form!

Do you have a favourite Tap step or routine?
One of my favourite routines is definitely the B.S. Chorus because it is a go-to that all my friends know. The B.S. Chorus is a finale dance that the hoofers used to do. It’s a chorus long and is a really great way to end a show.

Who have been the biggest influences in your Tap career?
The couple of encounters I had with Gregory Hines were really remarkable and seeing him in the movie Tap really inspired me. When I was younger, Savion Glover and Buster Brown were great influences. Jason Samuels Smith has been in my dance life for twelve years and it’s been a time of growth and progress. Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Dianne Walker have also influenced me because they’re outstanding women dancers. Then there are the times spent with the tap elders who really leave a huge impact on your life, like Harold Cromer, Arthur Duncan, Leonard Reed, Jimmy Slyde… they’re all remarkable!

How would you describe your style of Tap dancing?
My approach to tap has a balance between aggressive and sexy. A lot of my teachers have been men so I like the strong approach, but at the same time I like to have a feminine side to it, bringing to the table what is unique to me.

You have an all female Tap group ‘Syncopated Ladies’. What motivated you to start this company?
After a Monday night jam session in LA where there were a lot of women tappers, Jason Samuels Smith would say ‘man, there are a lot of y’all, you need to be doing something’ and I was like ‘yeh, we do!’. We started rehearsals two days later. It’s really been fun and it has pushed my choreography so it is geared towards women, because it’s different to choreographing for men. When I am working with just the women I can pick a song of a certain style that is feminine and we can push the envelope. I like it because it combines strong footwork but also a really feminine vibe and approach.

You have recently launched a popular range of ‘I love Tap’ clothing. How did this range come about?
One year at our LA tap festival I said ‘I need a shirt’ and that’s how it started. It was very basic and the T-shirt quality was pretty bad but people were kind enough to buy it. I then started learning about the clothing industry and I wanted clothes to dance in that are cute as I found myself always wearing the same rags to teach a class.

Chloe Arnold Taps up a Storm!

Chloe teaching at Melbourne International Tap Festival
Chloe in midflight as she teaches at MITF
Chloe Arnold Performs
Chloe shows her stuff, performing at MITF. Photo: A Aphoy

Most of my range is printed on American Apparel because it
is really great quality, it feels great and looks stylish. I have tanks, t-shirts, leggings, sweats, hoodies, dresses, basketball shorts, tote bags...... it’s really pushed my business skills.

I designed the ‘I love Tap’ logo which is based on the ‘I love NY’ logo. When I lived in New York, I used to wear those shirts all the time when I danced, so I was already into it stylistically. The ‘I love Tap’ logo firstly is about pride in our art form. Showing people we are proud of what we do and are willing to wear it on our chest, and it sparks a lot of conversation. And secondly, the silhouette of me in the heart came from this assertion idea, as the women in the world of tap don’t get the same props as men - it represents a woman in the dance.

What can students expect from your Tap class?
If it is an advanced class they can expect to be sore and out of breath (laughs).
Students can expect to be challenged. I like to stretch them physically, mentally and historically. I try and give a balance of four things; firstly the history of tap, secondly a vigorous warm up touching on the various rudiments of tap from shuffles to wings, paddle and roll to cramp roll but in rhythmic patterns so students are building their ear at the same time. Thirdly I like to talk about musicality and phrasing. How music is structured and what is a phrase. And lastly, if I have time, I will talk about ways you can improvise and the importance of it.

What are some helpful hints you give to your students to improve their Tap technique?
Repetition is key. You must put the practice in which takes a lot of time and pushing yourself beyond the point of where you want to quit. So if you’ve done it 32 times and feel finished, then maybe you should do another 32 times. Listen to a lot of music, that helps improve your ear. Watch a lot of footage. Just go onto youtube.com and watch a lot of the tap elders and you’ll really find how much you don’t know, but then on the flip side, how much you can learn from watching, and it can just feel amazing. I want to give the inspiration and tools, but at the end of the day, you have to apply it.

What is your mission as a Tap dancer, choreographer and teacher?
My mission is to raise the awareness and respect for the art form and to bring it to a more global platform through film, TV and live theatre. To advance women in the art form so they have visibility, and to make sure that our women are not forgotten, so in one hundred years there aren’t little girls saying ‘I wish I could see a video of older women dancers. Who were the women dancers?’ That’s what I struggled with growing up. As a kid I didn’t know any older women in tap other than Dianne Walker and Brenda Buffalino, and it was only when I was an adult I learned of Mable Lee and Jeni LeGon. I want to be an inspiration for young women and achieve the greatest I possibly can so they can see that it is possible, and can aspire to do more and take it further than what I am able to achieve.

For further details on Chloe Arnold and her ‘I love Tap’ clothing range visit www.chloearnold.com

 

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