By Loni Lawrence
With a robust shuffle ball change, the tap dance program at BYU is tapping its way onto a national level with its own tap workshop in June.
The three-day workshop is the first of its kind on campus.
“People love to see tap dance,” said Colleen West, coordinator for BYU”s tap program. “It has just exploded in popularity.”
At studios across the nation, tap classes are popping up and generating huge revenue, and BYU is no exception. 14 sections for beginning, intermediate, and advanced tap dance are offered, each with room for 25 to 50 students. However, current student demand still means long waiting lists each semester.
West said she has several students who took tap as seniors but wish they had taken it earlier.
“I asked them why they waited and they told me they couldn”t,” she said. “Finally they were seniors and could register early enough to get in.”
The classes” popularity showed more opportunities in tap would be welcomed, West said. As a result, she organized this spring”s rhythm tap workshop.
Inspired by workshops in dance hubs like California, New York and Chicago, she said the program will provide some intense training for students and teachers, focusing on rhythm development and technique.
“I”d like to see Utah be put on the map for tap,” she said.
The workshop will run from June 10-12, 2004 and will feature guest instructors Linda Sohl-Donnell and Anita Fledman. The professionals, from California and New York respectively, are currently faculty members at universities as well as artistic directors of well-known tap companies.
Elementary education major Stephanie Swanson from Salt Lake City is already enrolled in the workshop. She said she has tapped since she was 5 years old and is excited for the program because of the opportunity to be taught by the well-known teachers.
“The workshop with the different styles will give me a broader background in tap,” she said. “And it will be a blast to do.”
Tap is now making resurgence after a lull following the passing of greats like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. But the new tap is not the dance form grandma was used to. A new tap style called rhythm tap has emerged.
West said the new tap style focuses on improvisation and creating a mixture of rhythms and style. In fact, most professional tap artists work with a jazz band.
“The neat percussion rhythms being presented and developed are unbelievable,” West said. “And kids are just loving expressing themselves through percussive movement.”
Matt Carlin, an acting major from Nevada, Carlin began tapping here at BYU in 2001. As a teacher”s assistant for an intermediate tap class, he agrees that percussion plays a big role in tap”s growing popularity.
As a former drummer, Carlin said he would hear a song on the radio and want to drum out the beat of it. For him, tap dancing is the same. He constantly notices rhythms and moves everywhere he goes.
“Sometimes I even tap while waiting in line at the grocery store,” he said. “People look at you weird but you love it so much it doesn”t matter.”
Enrollment for the workshop is available at http://dancecamps.byu.edu.