By Winston Morrison
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.
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.
As tap dancers how can we find insipration?
Watching footage is a wonderful way to get inspired and also watching other kinds of art. Dance is movement, and watching other ways that people move makes me a better mover. Go out and listen to music, any kind of music. Jason Samuels Smith is a fabulous DJ and provides me with a lot of great music. Stretch. Write down ideas, and stories. Sing.
How do you keep your mental strength?
The time I auditioned for Savion’s DC Crew someone told me I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t good enough yet. But my mom was like, ‘just try, you always try’. So I tried. Fortunately, it wasn’t necessarily that I was good enough or not, it was just that he saw something in me. I don’t know what he saw, but something!
When I came to New York and I first danced in a jam session that was my lowest point. I flunked – embarrassment, humiliation. I told myself to go home and practise. I just kept saying to myself ‘you can’t be afraid because if you’re afraid, you’ll give up and you’ll never get this’.
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.