Posted on 03 May 2013.
Posted on 03 May 2013.
Interview with tap talent Joseph Wiggan
By Winston Morrison.
Would you like to tour in a world-class show? Winston Morrison catches up with tap dancer Joseph Wiggan to discover how he made it to the Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson Immortal tour, and his life behind the scenes.
What training and experiences did you have to become the dancer you are today?
I started when I was nine in Paul and Arlene Kennedy’s dancing school (LA). They had a kids performing group and after joining that company, we began to look for more information and who else we could also learn from. We performed at dance venues, random variety show jobs, on the morning news, at benefits and did stuff for the homeless.
So you looked for opportunities yourself?
Yes, we sure did. Our teacher was quite ill when we began to learn with him so there was a point when the repertoire that we had already established wasn’t being added to. So my dad, who was our first manager, began to look around and see what was up in the Los Angeles area. If it weren’t for him we wouldn’t have made any progress. We would have kept doing shows, but he began to look elsewhere to make sure that we were continuously challenged.
What was the next turning point?
When I was 16, I met Jason Samuels Smith who had moved down to LA. He started jam sessions and he started a company of his own. That was really the beginning of my professional work. Before I met Jason, my sister and I were improvising and were able to perform choreography, but Jason is a master and dances at a very, very masterful level – nothing like I’d ever experienced.
My sister Josette and I began to practise with a different focus after meeting Jason. He showed us that there was no limit to what you can practise. In his jam sessions he would take a 20-minute solo and be like “Okay, your turn. You do the same thing.” That really made you dig deep because at 10 minutes you are already tired and have exhausted all your steps!
Who are your mentors?
Dr. Harold Cromer really encourages us to not stick to one thing, as that limits us. He says, “Learn everything, do everything. Make sure you know how to sing, play instruments. Make sure you know how to act, speak languages. Make sure you know how to create a show, sell a show. Make sure you know how to dress.” I think it’s very valuable because I really appreciate the 1940s-1950s where the performance level was such a high standard. All of those elements were in every production.
Dr. Arthur Duncan said, “You’ll never know when you get your break. Just be ready when you get it.” He said he got his break in his 50s on the Lawrence Welk show. He wasn’t sure if he was going to ‘make it’, but he just kept practising and practising.
How did you get into Cirque Du Soleil?
They saw a clip of my sister and me and asked us to come in for a call as they were casting for a show back in 2008. The clip they saw was from the LA Tap Festival show; a piece my sister and I choreographed in four hours on a carpet in our living room the morning of the show because we said, “We gotta do something!” We ended up going to Los Angeles to audition and after a few months of corresponding through email, they booked us. The show (Banana Shpeel) was a lot of fun. It didn’t open but we performed a segment of it on TV. That show really changed my life because I’d never been a part of a production of that nature and with the circus arts. The dedication of the other artists in the show really inspired me. It was a great experience with so many different artists, jugglers, contortionists, singers, hip-hop dancers and ballerinas.
There was one entire tap dance act – a tap dance number that happened towards the end. My sister and I actually had a duo tap act, the rest was kind of Charleston, hip-hop dance.
Tell us about Derick Grant’s show Imagine Tap!?
That was amazing. I can’t wait for it to return. That was the most difficult show of my life actually, probably because of the amount of work. If there were eight dances in the first act, we’d be in six out of those eight. Derick would say “You really have to give your maximum – after a while your body will catch up with stamina.” It was so difficult, but it was so wonderful to be around six wonderful tap dancers from different generations, different styles and different cities.
Being one of the best visual tap dancers out there, what have you done to make your visual aspect strong?
I think most of the visual work came from my first teachers focusing on my posture. I try to make dancing easier for myself and I know that if I stand a certain way, it will allow me to dance better. My teachers were about being as polished as possible. I don’t dance in front of a mirror much these days at all, but I try to be as polished. I try to create a strict form (posture) for myself, even down to my toes.
I enjoy using the floor. My teacher used to say, “You can’t fight the floor, because the floor will win.” If you really want to be able to dance for a long time, you have to find a way to bounce. Instead of jarring, find a way to place the foot just right and have a certain bounce, as little or as much as you need, to help you continue on to the next step. Jarring will only tire you out.
What are you thinking when you are dancing? What’s actually going through your mind?
I’m trying to be as clear as possible so the audience can hear exactly what I’m trying to share and also the band at the exact same time. Clarity is the most important thing. And I try not to do too much, to really find what areas the taps can fit into what’s happening.
Joseph’s Top 4 Career Values:
“Do what you like.”
2. Forgive yourself and forgive others.
“Rather than taking things personally, I do my best to forgive.”
3. Give what you can.
4. Work hard for your job.
Joseph’s Top 3 Life Values:
1. Relationship with God and Jesus Christ.
“With that relationship, other values come with that. I love the Lord and I really want to stay connected to him. God is really at the forefront of everything that I do. Whether I’m dancing, attempting to sing or attempting to play the sax, I try to do it unto him. I found the joy in dancing because of him so I do it for him.”
2. Sharing all that I have with everyone, my family and friends.
“Whether through the arts or conversation. Everything else is secondary.”
3. Everyone should take care of their parents and their family.
Big news on the Australian tap scene – a world class tap dancer from New York is coming to Melbourne this year! Hailed by Gregory Hines as “one of the top young tap dancers in the world today”, Ayodele Casel is headlining the 2nd annual Australian Tap Dance Festival.
Happening September 21 – 27 (Spring school holidays), the Australian Tap Dance Festival will once again bring together the tap community to create a buzzing atmosphere of energy, rhythm, and dance.
Attend intensive tap workshops, meet tap leaders and have a blast making friends with friendly dedicated tap dancers from around Australia and the world. The faculty consists of artists from Australia, USA, UK and Canada. For more information about participating and attending the Australian Tap Dance Festival and the early bird discount, visit
Photo (top): Tap dancer Joseph Wiggan. Photo © Kristie Kahns
Posted on 03 March 2013.
The Tap Pack, an infectious, swinging, tap-dancing comedy, is set to take the Parramatta Riverside Theatre in Sydney by storm this March with its unique mix of cheek, charm and sophistication.
Inspired by the highly entertaining performances of the original 1960s’ “Rat Pack”, which formed around the great Humphrey Bogart and featured the undeniably cool Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr., The Tap Pack offers old classics with a fresh new twist in a tightly packed one hour show.
Written and choreographed by tap talent Thomas J. Egan, Jordan Pollard and Jesse Rasmussen, the show features five of Australia’s own triple threats, a swingin’ six piece live band and irresistible songs both old and new.
“People tend to forget how amazing live performance is,” says choreographer and performer Thomas J. Egan. “The Tap Pack picks up where the Rat Pack left off, putting high-energy tap dancing alongside witty banter, slick humour, sharp suits and, above all, a great night out. We feel it can reach the young and young-at-heart because it has a timeless charm, yet we bring a fresh, invigorating energy.”
A show inspired by the legends of yesteryear, the idea for the show came about through a casual chat over drinks. “It all started with a conversation at our bar. We started talking and all of us felt passionate towards creating something that inspires us so much. It just so happens that all of us love jazz music, can tap dance and wanted to bring back this style,” shares Jesse Rasmussen.
“From a young age, all of us have had a unique connection to jazz music and we were lucky enough to learn about Frank, Dean and Sammy growing up,” adds Egan. “If anybody has seen or heard the Rat Pack, they were just entertainers. Just like the Rat Pack, we Tap Pack guys have camaraderie from our close friendships through the industry. We wish to harness this into something reminiscent of the legends of the 1960s. We are just totally inspired to pay homage to the classics but overall bring laughter and joy to audiences.”
And now this dream has become a reality. “It’s not easy taking an idea, a dream, from nothing and getting it moving, but we’ve all had great belief in this project and all put such positive energy towards The Tap Pack that it doesn’t really feel like work,” explains Rasmussen. “Working together has been extremely rewarding, we have such respect for each other and we are motivated to making it succeed.”
From classic Rat Pack numbers “Lady is a Tramp” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, to Beyonce and Cee Lo Green “swingified”, The Tap Pack promises great music and impressive dancing from some of Australia’s most talented tappers. The five young men behind the show, alongside Director Nigel Turner-Carroll, share international dance and choreographic credits in over 20 live musical theatre productions, motion picture blockbusters, television series and more.
“Having all done a variety of shows, some coming from a similar era as the Rat Pack, we have come to thrive in this style. Working professionally in musical theatre, commercial dance and choreographing for artists gives you great experience to draw from and we will be bringing our unique flavour to it,” Rasmussen elaborates.
Posted on 10 February 2013.
The Basement, Sydney
February 7, 2013
By Kristy Johnson.
Parisian Rendez Vous, by writer and performer Ruby Boukabou and cabaret heartthrob Ben Palumbo, was a delight.
Having returned for a one-off performance on February 7th at Sydney’s premier jazz club, The Basement, audience members were treated to an acrobatic, operatic and tap dancing sensation.
Ruby Boukabou brought her Parisian flair and acting skills to the forefront in the role of Jazmin Baret as she took us on a series of semi-autobiographic, theatrical adventures. The concept was brilliant. It allowed the audience to have an understanding of French culture while simultaneously keeping us amused.
Complimenting her was the multi-talented Ben Palumbo in the role of Monsieur P. It’s quite clear Ben is meant for the stage. He has a certain ease at performing that appears natural and not forced.
Accompanying Boukabou and Palumbo on stage were a talented team of musicians and dancers, with featured solos from international burlesque star Sarina del Fuego and jazz songstress Cathrine Summers. A definite highlight of the night was watching Glenn Wood perform choreography with the Sydney Tap Crew.
Sparkly costumes and French mannerisms tied in with the French theme. A good dose of humour was often a welcome distraction to some of the more serious moments of the performance.
All had an enjoyable night. As the French would say….c’était magnifique!
Photo: Two dancers of Parisian Rendez Vous. Photo by Josh Raymond.
Posted on 01 October 2012.
Maybe you can tap out a rhythm, but how much do you really know about tap dance?
By Rain Francis.
1. Which of the following steps would you associate least with tap dance?
b) cramp roll
2. Which of the following musicals would you find the most tap dancing in?
a) 42nd Street
b) A Chorus Line
3. True or false: Mr Bojangles is a fictional character.
4. With which style of tap dance would you most associate Michael Flatley?
a) Irish tap dancing
b) Soft shoe
c) Broadway tap
d) All of the above
5. Which of the following is not a character from Anything Goes?
a) Billy Crocker
b) Reno Sweeney
c) Moonface Martin
d) Billy Flynn
6. What is the name for a tap dancer who dances very close to the floor, using mostly footwork and little upper body movement?
7. The USA celebrates National Tap Dance Day on May 25. In what year was this signed into law?
8. Mumble, Gloria, Memphis and Norma Jean are all characters from which tapping movie?
a) Step Up
b) Happy Feet
c) Singing in the Rain
9. Which famous tapper is not an actor in the 1989 film Tap?
a) Savion Glover
b) Gregory Hines
c) Sammy Davis, Jnr
d) Fred Astaire
10. In the film Anchors Aweigh, Gene Kelly famously performs a tap dance number with which cartoon character?
a) Mickey Mouse
b) Jerry Mouse
d) Jessica Rabbit
1 – c; 2 – a; 3 – false; 4 – a; 5 – d; 6 – d; 7 – c; 8 – b; 9 – d; 10 – b
Photo: Melinda Sullivan and dancers perform the winning routine at this year’s Capezio ACE Awards at Dance Teacher Summit New York.
Photo courtesy of Break The Floor Productions
Posted on 05 December 2011.
Posted on 01 November 2011.
By Winston Morrison of MelbourneTapDance.com.
Renowned tap fanatic Chloe Arnold is a co-director of the LA Tap Festival and DC Tap Festival. She makes a living from tap dancing professionally all around the world, and has been a guest in Australia for our tap dance festival.
In a half hour interview, walking and cabbing through New York City, I asked Chloe about the defining moments of her dance life, advice for aspiring tap dancers, and what goes on in her brilliant tap mind. Follow Chloe’s advice and you will get results. Besides her skill, it is the person that Chloe is that has made her a success. Tap dancers who want a career in tap can model Chloe’s mindset, priorities and lifestyle to help them become a professional doing what they love.
Tell us about your training and experiences.
When I was 6, I started dancing in this regular dancing school doing jazz, ballet and tap. There was this one particular tap duo that my friend and I really worked on to make better. That’s my first recollection of making a stronger commitment to tap.
One day my mom saw an audition for an all-tap company. I made it on probation; contingent upon the idea that if I improved within three months then I could be in the company. The teacher in that company sought out information from the masters and hoofers and brought in master classes with Lavaughn Robinson, Eddie Brown, Buster Brown and Harriet Brown. He exposed us to a lot of people.
Savion Glover came to D.C. and did a one month residency – Savion Glover’s DC Crew. I auditioned for that and got in. I was 10, and that really changed my life because we were having professional experience with him training four hours a day, learning choreography and then performing it in a large scale show.
One of the years he brought us to New York for a Broadway Showcase. That changed my life again because I decided I had to move to New York. So at 11 years old I decided I was moving to New York when I grew up and that I was going to be a tap dancer. I trained really hard and surrounded myself with people that inspired me, really pushed me to get better and didn’t baby me, but demanded excellence.
What other training do you do to support your tap?
I jam about 5 times a week, run and lift.
When dancing professionally how important is business?
Business, although it doesn’t help your tap dancing skills, is how you’re going to help your tap dancing career. You’re not going to have a career if you don’t do business. Business is how you expand, and do what you want to do.
What advice do you have for tappers in Australia with access to comparatively fewer teachers and peers?
Tap footage, and maybe the new wave that Jason Samuels Smith is talking about - Skype privates. The great thing with Facebook is that you can shoot a line to someone who you get inspiration from. You’ve got to find your peers that maybe aren’t teachers but just want it as bad as you. Push your peers to be better so they can inspire you and get together with them.
What’s your vision for tap?
I just want to see more tap. I want to see it on TV, in film, in music as music, on Broadway and on tours in a way that celebrates the art, the music, and the diversity of it.
What’s important to Chloe in her life and career now?
CHLOE ARNOLD’S TOP 5 LIFE VALUES
1) Love. Love for tap and love for life. Love is what gets me out of bed and to work for 14 hours. I love walking down the streets of New York feeling alive and excited. I’m driven by love.
2) Friends and family are very overlapped in my life and they come under love. I value my friends like family. I’d do just about anything for my family, and we work as a team.
3) Respect. I have a great deal of respect for myself, for other people, for my work and other people’s work. That allows for an environment of peace, as opposed to war where you don’t have respect for other cultures, ways and views. Treat other people the way you want to be treated, that’s real.
4) Fun falls under the love factor because everything I’m talking about is just fun to me too.
5) Culture. For example, today I came across a kid from Tokyo who didn’t speak English, and the idea that I can try to speak his language and try to connect is invigorating to me. I get excited by differences.
CHLOE ARNOLD’S TOP 5 CAREER VALUES
1) Respect yourself, your art and that of others. If you become a star who only respects your own work and not others, you’re going to find yourself on an island (isolated). The great thing about art is it’s communication, and you’re able to connect with others.
2) Work ethic and discipline. Discipline yourself, like do I really want this salad right now? Maybe not, maybe I’d love a cookie but after working six hours this is how I replenish. It’s about having the discipline to do that or putting on my shoes for the 4th hour when I’m tired and don’t want to. Everything you do in life requires sacrifice, anything you really want in this life will not come without sacrifice.
3) Perseverance. No matter how hard you get knocked down, you just stand back up. No matter how mean someone is to you, no matter how someone makes you feel like you should quit…NEVER give up. And all this should be driven by your:
4) Love and passion. That should really be the root of it – you’re only doing this art because there’s a passion for it.
5) Be yourself as an artist. You have to at some point. The more you are yourself, the more unique you become because there’s no one like you, and the more effective your art will be. You are relaying your art, not just imitating.
Posted on 01 June 2011.
By Deborah Searle.
Tap Extraordinaire Jared Grimes is a performer with heart. I recently met Jared at a New York dance competition he founded called ‘Run The Night’ where he gave young dance hopefuls a chance to perform in front of their peers and industry judges for feedback, encouragement and a cash prize. His heart for the next generation of dancers is evident as he strives to give artists a chance to shine and develop their talents.
Producing his own shows and performing across the US, Grimes is making his mark in the tap and hip hop dance scene with an infectious charisma on stage and off. He has danced alongside legends such as Wynton Marsalis, Gregory Hines, Ben Vereen and Jerry Lewis, has toured with Mariah Carey and danced for Common, Salt-n-Pepa, Envogue, Busta Rhymes and the Roots. Jared’s theater credits include Cirque Du Soleil’s, Banana Shpeel, Twist, Scottsboro Boys, Pure Country, Babes in Arms, Sammy, Vaudeville and Broadway Underground, a show he directs himself. Grimes has also appeared in commercials for Coca-Cola, Subway and MTV, along with several television shows and films.
So who is Jared Grimes? What are his passions?
I am a performer. My passion is tap. I feel my greatest strength is the ability to connect with people.
What are you proud of?
I’m proud to be a person who has lived by all the morals and principals instilled in me by my parents. They gave me the everlasting gift of never giving up on people.
Tell us about your dance background
I moved to NYC in 2001 for college and had no money after tuition. My feet conjured up food and rent for about four years. The subway is where I built my performing stamina, drive, and execution in tap. If I couldn’t connect with a crowd they didn’t stay and watch. Relating to different cultures, races, genders, and ages is what I had to do to last a day in the subway.
I started dancing when I was 3. My mother was my first teacher.
What is your favorite dance style? Tap or hip hop?
Tap is my favorite style of dance. Hip hop is second.
What is your career highlight?
My career highlight is regularly performing with Wynton Marsalis, whom I call my professor. He has a wealth of knowledge and his perspectives on music send me to the stars and back with every performance and every conversation.
Tell us about your show ‘Broadway Underground’.
Broadway Underground is a culture in the making of performers who have the ability to do it all. We are a culture of triple threat performers much like Fred Astair, Sammy Davis Jr., Gene Kelly, the Nicholas Brothers and Gregory Hines. We are like them, but for our time. Broadway Underground is how we put a twist on old ideals of performing. Broadway Underground will soon be a television show fusing dance and comedy!
How do you keep inspired to perform, teach and create?
I stay motivated! I don’t know why or how I keep pushing forward, but there is something inside me that is never satisfied with the moment. I’m always seeking perfection outside the box and it is an obsession that I have learned to live with. It never stops. When I was little I can remember challenging my image in the mirror [laughs]. In life I never want people to figure me out. My brain is always trying to stay ahead of itself and I am just trying to keep up with it by feeding it my heart and soul. It’s a crazy thing. Teaching is an outlet for what is constantly going on in my head.
What is your advice for young street dancers?
My advice to all dancers is to know your history. There’s nothing worse than a dancer that does not know who paved the way for them.
What are your current projects?
I’m currently doing the musical TWIST at the Pasadena Playhouse directed by my friend Debbie Allen. We will be doing shows from June- July 25.
What are your dreams?
I want to take over the world in a way that hasn’t been done since Sammy Davis Jr!
Video: Courtesy of youTube.
Dance Informa/Dance News International takes no responsibility for the content of any videos viewed through youTube.
Posted on 02 December 2010.
By Nicole Saleh.
To all the tap dancers who’ve wanted the rhythmic precision and brilliant feet of Jason Samuels Smith, you’re now one step closer!
In a highly innovative collaboration, the Australian brand Bloch, who are experts in technical dance footwear, have partnered with Jason Samuels Smith, one of the world’s greatest tap dancers, to create a professional tap shoe to meet the needs of today’s tap dancer.
It’s taken over four years to perfect, countless hours of research and testing to develop the Jason Samuels Smith Professional Tap Shoe SO313. This beautifully crafted tap shoe is not only comfortable and stylish, it also produces an amazing sound like a well tuned instrument… but don’t take my word for it. You can now try it out for yourself!
On his recent trip to Australia, Jason officially launched the SO313 at Bloch’s flagship store in Sydney. I caught up with him during his whirlwind visit to learn more about this uniquely crafted tap shoe.
As a Tap Dancer, how important is it to have good tap shoes?
The tap shoe is your instrument and it’s an extension of your foot, so it’s very important that it’s made well and has a decent sound that you prefer. It needs to be comfortable enough to wear for a long period of time and stylish enough to be presentable on stage. Tap dancers deserve a good shoe to accompany the art form. Tap dancing is too amazing not to have an instrument that can deliver.
How did your relationship start with Bloch?
Some Bloch representatives approached me four or five years ago at a national tap dance event. They had been keeping track of me and were very aware of my career, and were interested in developing a professional tap dance shoe. I knew I wanted to create a shoe but I didn’t know how I was going to do it, so when Bloch approached me it was perfect timing. They were really open to the idea of allowing me to have full creative say over the design of the shoe, and were willing to make whatever changes I asked.
How involved were you with the design of the tap shoes?
I was completely involved. In the beginning Bloch sent me a model of their top professional tap shoe that looked more like a steel-toe boot than a dress shoe. I gave them a shoe that I liked in a classic Hollywood 30’s or 40’s style and once they had the core design we kept altering it.
I had seen a clip of Coles (Honey Coles) and Atkins (Cholly Atkins) tap dancing and they’re wearing shoes that have a straight cut across the toe and the toe is in a different colour to the back of the shoe. I always liked how this looked and so we have done two versions of the stitching for our shoe. One has the hard cut that goes across the toe – that’s the ladies version. The other one cuts across and has a sharper cut that goes to the back. So there is slightly different stitching on the shoes, which gives more options in terms of customisation.
So you have a female version and a male version of the shoe?
Right now we have a basic design for a male and a female shoe, where the sole, the leather and interior are all the same. The female shoe has slightly different stitching but it’s not necessarily gender restrictive. I know guys that have bought the female shoe because it’s a narrower cut of the male shoe. My foot is naturally wide and Bloch designed the shoe based on my foot, so the male shoe that comes out of the box is wide.
What was the most important thing for you working on this project?
The main thing was to create a professional high quality tap shoe as a complete package which to me means a shoe that is a total entity and lasts the distance. We worked on the durability of the shoe and the style, and it was also important that the shoes have their own distinctive sound.
The shoe also needs to be comfortable. If you’re teaching three or four classes a day, your feet are just throbbing by the end of the day. Bloch really attacked this, even before I approached it. Their shoes are some of the most comfortable dance shoes in the world, so I was really happy about that.
Sound is an important aspect of tap. What process did you undergo to ensure the shoes produced an exceptional quality sound?
At the beginning of the whole process Bloch did a focus group. They called in a bunch of tap dancers: Derrick Grant, Michelle Dorrance, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Chloe Arnold, Dianne Walker, and myself. They had taps from the past and the present and we tested the sound independent of the shoe, and also on the shoe, and every dancer would say which tone they preferred. I was really feeling confident with the shoe and we were at the end of the process when Bloch wanted me to try these new bigger taps that covered the entire surface of your toe to the ball of your foot. The sound was really unique and the tone produced by the bigger tap was so rich, deep and base heavy that I loved it immediately! The sound I can produce with the taps is actually my favourite part of the shoe.
Are the shoes designed only for professional dancers? What are some of its unique features?
It’s a comfortable shoe that any level tap dancer can use. If you’re buying a tap shoe it should come as a tap shoe with taps on it already. With our shoe it’s ready to use straight out of the box, and it doesn’t have a long break in time. It also comes with optional pieces of rubber for the sole of the shoe. I don’t particularly like the rubber because it limits your ability to slide, so we have given this as an option.
The shoe comes with a build up (additional half soles on the toe and heel), which changes the tone giving it a deeper base and helps to balance the bottom of the sole. The build up also gives a richer sound and more versatility, so if you want to use the top edge of the toe, you have more surface area to create that sound or to do a toe stand.
My mission was to develop an instrument that can withstand the force that we use to create our sound. When we’re tap dancing we’re destroying our shoes and tearing them to shreds. My goal was to create a long lasting shoe. We’ve really tried to reinforce the stitching over and over again so people will get the most life out of it. It won’t obviously last forever but I believe in business, if you do the job right the first time, people are going to come back the second time. I also think the shoe will make a lot of tap dancers happy because it’s made for tap dancers by a tap dancer.
What is your hope for the Jason Samuels Smith Professional Tap Shoe?
One of my dreams for the shoe is for every tap dancer on the planet to try them once, and hopefully they will like them and continue to support them. Personally I want to continue to make the shoe better like we have done over the last four years. I want people to give me feedback because it’s not about what I want, but about what we (the tap community) want.
To get your pair of Jason Samuels Smith’s Tap Shoes SO313, contact your nearest Bloch retailer by visiting www.blochworld.com
Jason Samuels Smith’s tips on buying Tap Shoes
1. What are you are trying to accomplish in your tap shoes?
Are you buying them to perform, teach, practice, or because they look nice?
If you’re a teacher and you teach sixteen classes a week you need something that is comfortable and immediately feels good. You should never have pain when you start wearing a pair of shoes and you don’t want to have to break them in. If you can feel your toe at the tip of the shoe and it’s uncomfortable, then it doesn’t fit and you need another size. It’s got to be comfortable!
2. It has to produce a sound you like, so you need to test it out on a wood surface to get a feel for the sound.
3. It needs to look good. But it doesn’t matter how it looks, if it doesn’t sound or feel great.
Top photo by Michael Higgins
Posted on 12 September 2010.
Spring Dance 2010
Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House.
Sept 2nd 2010
By Nicole Saleh
Savion Glover does not lie. He promised bare sounds, and that is exactly what he delivered at the 2010 Spring Dance Festival at the Sydney Opera House.
Bare Soundz is 90 minutes of pure tap: no narrative, no props, no fancy sets. On stage there are simply three wooden platforms amplifying the beats of Glover, Maurice Chestnut and Marshall Davis Jnr. Reminiscent of a traditional jazz trio (bass, drum and keys), Chestnut and Davis start Bare Soundz by creating a consistent strong backbeat with their heel and toe taps, simply tapping with one foot to provide the strong bass. Glover takes centre stage, and with clearly articulated footwork he delivers a smooth melody, punctuated at times with strong staccato beats. When it comes to his performance it is evident that Glover’s rhythms permeate from within. At times he was clearly focused and performing in his zone, with eyes closed and a smile on his face that expressed sheer joy in the music he was creating with his feet. He captivated the audience to not only see the visual element of dance but to intently listen to the dance and be transported by the musicality of his rhythms.
Savion Glover’s rhythmical journey started when he was a young musician playing the drums. Growing up in a musically gifted family, Glover applied his skills to tap dancing. He is the talent behind the animated tap dancing penguin Mumble, in the film Happy Feet and is widely recognised today as the world’s greatest tap dancer. Privileged to have learnt his craft from revered tap legends such as Lon Chaney, Jimmy Slide, Chuck Green, Honi Coles, Bunny Briggs and Gregory Hines, Glover carries on today the legacy of these pioneering hoofers through his own works that push the boundaries of tap dance.
What makes Glover’s show extraordinary is that it is never performed the exact same way twice. Glover calls this, Improvography; a combination of choreography and improvisation. When all three dancers are tapping in unison the timing is impeccable as if you are hearing one tap dancer. When each dancer in turn takes the lead, they show their own unique style through improvisation. Chestnut has a distinct groove where he performs with strength and conviction in his solo, while Davis is reminiscent of the legendary hoofers tapping with speed and control, letting his feet do the talking. Glover is a brilliant technician who wowed the audience with his power and fast footwork, delivering clear intricate beats that are performed effortlessly. Wearing traditional Capezio black tap boots, and not his usual trademark green, he made sounds using every part of his boot from the inner and outer edge, to the soles, heels and toes. His boots are his musical instrument and there was not one part of his boot that he did not use to create a soulful tune.
A highlight for me was the jam session, when each dancer in succession took 16 counts to improvise and outdo the performance of the dancer before them. Trying to impress, Glover, Chestnut and Davis pulled out all stops with complex wings, riffs, shuffles, toe stands, slides and turns while never missing a beat. It brought out their competitive side as they stole each other’s steps and did it one better than the last dancer, which had the audience amazed.
Feeling inspired by the show, I had the opportunity of honing my own tap skills at an exclusive Tap Master Class with Glover, and this is when it became really interesting!
Glover didn’t position himself at the front of the class and lead a traditional warm up, nor did he teach a combination as we had expected. He opened the class by explaining that he no longer taught ‘steps’ as we all have a vocabulary of steps. He challenged our thinking and approach to tap dance, which became the premise of the 2 hour workshop. Glover walked around the class weaving in and around the dancers as he posed philosophical questions in relation to tap. He explored the theory, technique and musicality of tap dance, discussing timing, accents and the structure of steps, all of which are important technique tools for improvisation. His class was a journey beyond the realm of a combination. It was unlike any tap class I‘d ever been to, and I was left to consider whether we approach tap as musicians, dancers or both. What I enjoyed most was when Glover demonstrated musical concepts such as half time, single time and double time, and taught us how to create our own combination using the structure of “3 and a break”.
Everything I learnt from the class became more apparent when seeing Bare Soundz for the second time. It is extremely rare for me to see a show twice in one week, but I could not help going back for more to experience the brilliance of Savion Glover – 90 minutes of nothing but tap dancing and wonderful rhythmic sounds at its best.
A true creative genius, Savion Glover is an artist dedicated to his craft. He not only delivered an incredible performance to Sydney audiences, but has also embraced the responsibility of carrying forward his art form, sharing the musicality of tap dance to the next generation of dancers and reminding me of what the Bare Soundz of tap dance is all about….creating music with your feet!
Hear from George Miller, Director of Happy Feet, on Savion Glover
Photos: James Morgan
Published by www.danceinforma.com