Imagine a family where everyone communicates through movement and music and everyone is driven, kind, and genuinely supportive of one another. According to Kelsey Leonard, Co-Founder of the Portland Tap Festival, that family exists, and she calls it the “Tap Fam.” This is not a real family of blood relatives, but rather the international community of tap dancers who are bonded over their shared love of tap. “Anyone can be in it, it’s very inclusive. As long as you have a pair of tap shoes and are dedicated, people will welcome you.” And the Portland Tap Festival coming up Memorial Day weekend, is a great place to experience that sense of community for tappers of all ages and levels.
For those who just want to dip a toe in the water, there are performances every evening of the festival that showcase world-class tappers. For those who have experience in tap, this is a gold mine of opportunity.
An all-star cast of faculty will be teaching everything from Tiny Tap for kids as young as five to adult drop-in style master classes to mini residencies where students learn choreography over the course of the three days to present at the student show on the final night. Kelsey points out “Festivals like this are often the place where the big companies, like Dorrance Dance or Syncopated Ladies get their dancers. These festivals are really just the best way to connect with everyone in the tap world.” It is also a place where the “Tap Fam” sentiment blossoms and lasting connections and mentorships form.
Which of the tap greats might you learn from and be seen by? Dianne Walker – also known as Aunt Di, Lady Di or the Ella Fitzgerald of tap. She has a 40 year career spanning Broadway, Television, Film and International Jazz Concerts and Tap Festivals. Bril Barrett – the founder of M.A.D.D. Rhythms (which stands for Making A Difference Dancing). Nicholas Van Young who spent a decade performing with STOMP and is now co-creating for Dorrance Dance. Sarah Reich who at the young age of 15, was featured in Dance Spirit Magazine’s article, “20 Hot Tappers Under 20” and was named one of the “25 To Watch” by Dance Magazine in 2009. The list could go on (and it does on the festival website), but that should be enough to get the dance nerds excited and at least pique the interest of the dance curious.
If this sounds incredible to you, you’re not alone. Over 200 tappers from across the world come out for this festival. And if you ask Kelsey, the best way to describe the vibe and energy you’ll find is “purely magical.”
In this interview 2018 Ambassador Zach Carroll sits down with Kelsey Leonard to discuss her life and career in dance. They discuss how tap mixes dance and music as well as her dream tour the world using tap as a way to promote cultural diplomacy.
In this interview 2018 Ambassador Kathryn Harden sits down with Bárbara Lima to discuss her life and career in dance. They talk about what it was like growing up dancing in Brazil, and what it means to be an artist.
Dance Wire Founder and Director Emily Running sits down with Rebekah WolfsonKilayko to discuss her life in dance so far. At only 14, her confidence, discipline, and thoughtfulness about dance and it’s value in the world is impressive. We talk about stigmas associated with dance, how to avoid being brought down by competitive environments, and her dreams for her future.
Countless people have had a passion for dance early in life, but then reached a critcial point. Should I pursue it as a career? Or should I walk away? To pursue a performing career in dance is tough in many ways – physically and financially in particular – so many decide against it. But at Pacific University they see additional options.
“The goal of our program is to help students see all the opportunities they could take on through dance.” says Jennifer Camp, Associate Professor and Director of the Dance Program. “We emphasize that dance is not just an art but can be a tool for offering a different way of thinking about things.” For example, one student who was a double major in Dance and Chemistry completed a two-part research project for their Senior Capstone Project. Part I included a performance choreographed on a set of trained dancers that applied specific chemistry concepts to movement. The piece was presented as a teaching tool to the Chemistry classes in the fall semester. In Part II – the student created numerous dance lesson plans based around a chemistry course and then worked weekly with chemistry students applying dance teaching tools to assist the students in understanding the scientific concepts in the course.
As a liberal arts institution, Pacific University strives to help their students establish a more holistic approach to their careers. If dance majors want to go out and pursue a career as a performer that’s great, but Pacific also want them to be able to see past that and think about how dance can be bridging the gap between communities and how that can create more good in the world. “That’s really what we want students to take away from their experience here. We want them to look at dance as a broad, global experience.” A lot of kids come in as a minor and then change to a dance major once they realize all the potential there is to use dance outside of just performing.
Another very special point about Pacific, with just 1,900 total undergraduates, is that students get a high level of individual attention. They have deeper relationships with their professors, lots of hands-on experiences, teaching assistance-ships, and ultimately produce more work than at other University level programs. And if that weren’t enough, most dance majors receive scholarships. Scholarship auditions occur in March and are really for those with a deep passion for dance who intend to be dance majors or minors.
So for any young dancers out there wanting to change the world through their dance, check out Pacific and discover a new world of possibilities!