YOUNG AND EAGER, and younger-acting and more eager than many at 19, I taught my first lesson, a beginning tap class, to a fledgling and enthusiastic group of students at a studio located within a strip mall in Cupertino, California: this was the place that introduced me to my lifelong career. Like most newly- minted teachers, I was overly cocky and full of ideas that I knew would blow the minds of my students. My goal was to wow them with complex rhythms and show the way with favorite steps that moved across the wood floor—full body explosions of tappyness. I didn’t know that I didn’t know much about tap—and thankfully it didn’t matter. The year was 1976 and dance was an all-consuming passion. Well that, and boogieing to disco songs and dating boys.
Learning a person’s way in to dancing—or the ways dance found them—are my favorite stories to hear. These chronicles provide such wonderful insights and remind me that there is not one direct path to fulfilling dreams of an artistic life. Common themes amongst these stories are that perseverance and repeated practice provide results.
Putting practice to practice continues to resonate for me as a motivator that can provide wonderful results. As artists we practice in virtual and physical ways: remembering learned steps, reviewing choreography, revisiting given instructions, or actively re-working material that is either given to us or manifested from our own sweat-inspired imagination.
Practice permeates all we do—artists or not— and each of the featured writers this month delve into viewpoints on ways to seek it and ways to support it; practices that engage deeply with the structures being developed for stage, which then assist to achieve precise focal points that engage each eager audience.
Possibly the most apparent reference to practicing is the way that choreographer Christy Funsch has devised a frame- work for generating a 100 day score that seeks to provide a time-based finish line for the practitioner, with the scores serving as a way for artists to push against their own assumptions of why, when and where work is made. Rowena Richie provides insight into this open-sourced exercise that looks to support nimble creativity, and promises much.
Frequency of rehearsals assuredly has an impact on the various characteristics of a crafted creative output. Levels of access to resources, like whether an artist can provide more payment for more time with their dancers, or be able to pay for additional studio time for rehearsals, adds to the complex issues of how to bring work to the stage. Patricia Reedy, founder of Luna Dance Institute, has been testing a new pro- gram that looks to address support for a wide range of dance makers. In her article CHOREOFUND: A Work in Progress, Reedy is working, through this evolving endeavor, to disrupt assumptions of who decides what work is valued and financially supported.
Rob Taylor’s conversation with local legend Lily Cai reveals how her commitment to her students provided a rm footing in progressing her company, one that draws on her singular style from training in traditional Chinese dance. Glimpses of Cai’s practiced aesthetic can be seen during the free noontime Rotunda Dance Series on March 4th.
My recollection of teaching my first class was prompted by reading Gail Barton’s article, Finding Tap, where she sets out to bring attention to the rich rhythmic landscape of instruction and performances that are fueled by this multi-faceted tradition.
These reminders of great tap dancing have me imagining slipping on some tap shoes and taking a class or two.
First loves are always the most fondly remembered. Enjoy your own tappyness.