Portland Tap Alliance

The Tap Fam

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.”

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