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Tap dancing is one of those dance styles you just love to watch. It can be lighthearted and take flight or a take the form of a demanding staccato of rhythm and sound; but whatever the beat, the dance becomes the music.
From tap’s early beginnings in the mid 1800’s as a style of dance performed at traveling minstrel shows to Vaudeville to the Broadway stage, tap continues to enjoy a growing interest attracting the very young while keeping an older generation ‘on the move’. In Carmel Valley, we are enjoying what I see as a resurgence of the interest in tap dancing among the youth as well as a very active adult tap community. Yes again, Tap is Cool.
My own experience with tap dance began as a ‘show tapper’ learning basic steps; shuffles, flaps, cramprolls, Maxi Ford’s and the like while a vocalist in San Diego Starlight’s Musical Theater productions. I loved the percussion of the dance, especially the way the taps on the bottom of my shoes allowed me to become one with the music, and sometimes the music itself. These early childhood experiences with the San Diego Starlight Theater and the San Diego Opera Company lead me eventually to Hollywood and one of my favorite tap instructors, Pat Rico. With Pat I was able to master this very quick and close to the floor style known as ‘rhythm tap’. Now in my late 50’s, tap is a dance style that I can still fully participate in and enjoy as I did in those younger years.
For very young children, tap can be beneficial for the development of motor skills and musicality. For school age children, tap has proven not to only work the right brain functions such as motor skills, creativity and musicality but also left brain functions such as logic, numbers, and critical thinking. Many astonished parents tell me that as their child becomes more proficient in tap dance, they also experience higher math scores. And that does not stop with children. Tap continues to stimulate the muscles and the mind well into adulthood. No wonder many of my adult students are doctors, lawyers and scientists.
With the latest talent television shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “The X Factor”, we have seen the increase of tap dancers in the venues like Matt Flint, the winner of “So You Think You Can Dance” 2011 or who could forget the tapping duo Nick and Jess from Season 8 of the same show? A beautiful 23 year old, Mallory Hagen of New York won the title of 2013’s Miss America Pageant partly due to her tap dance to James Brown “Get Up Off of That Thing”.
The best part of learning to tap is that it is an exercise form and a form of joyous expression that can take you through a lifetime. Miss Dorothy Dale Kloss, 85 years old still holds the title of “oldest performing showgirl” with the Fabulous Follies in Palm Springs, California. Of course, maybe we all won’t be on stage at 85 but tap dancing is a far better option than being on the couch watching life go by. For me, I’ll be teaching tap to students of 3 to 103 as long as these old feet will carry me. ..and like I tell all of my students each class ‘I’ll see you on the dance floor’.
Video: tap dancing from SYTYCD Season 8 Nick and Jess: http://youtu.be/8YtQAJQlpsw
Louis McKay is President of North County DanceArts, Inc. located in Carmel Valley and currently trains 400 students from ages 3 to 93 years of age. Louis has performed and taught Master dance and musical theater classes in 42 of our 50 states and Europe and South Africa. In 1980, Louis McKay opened Louis McKay Dance Studio, later to become North County DanceArts, Inc., which is a teaching facility that is best known for its professional teaching staff and quality dance training. Dancers from beginning level to professional are taught technique, terminology, and discipline in a nurturing and fun environment. Louis currently lives in Carmel Valley San Diego with his wife Tanya and is the proud father of four grown children and two grandchildren. Louis and Tanya McKay also own DanceHearts, a 501 (c) (3) Public Charity called Bells of Freedom Program, serves military men, women and their families by providing emergency care and support, back to school backpack program, vehicle donations and the annual “The Big Thank You” Military Holiday Event.