Anthony Morigerato's Secret to Making Tap Class Fun for Everyone

Photo courtesy of Break the Floor Productions

At the young age of 14, when Anthony Morigerato started teaching dance to help pay for his own lessons in his hometown, Albany, New York, he quickly learned the worth of his dance education. "From the first class I taught, I understood the value of my training in dollars and cents and also in terms of the knowledge." A part of that understanding included the importance of music in a dance curriculum.

Whether he's choreographing for a student's competition piece, a master class or at a festival, Morigerato, who holds the Guinness World Record for most taps in a minute at 1,163, approaches choosing music as a learning opportunity for young dancers. This means using the concept he's teaching to dictate what kind of music to pick—not the other way around. "Let's say the student has never danced to a jazz standard or never done a swing piece. I will deliberately pick a jazz standard that's swing, to teach them the concept of swinging," Morigerato says.

Photo courtesy of Break the Floor Productions

Exposing students to a variety of music genres—not just focusing on what's popular—is a top priority within his teaching style. While teaching a class, he'll sometimes opt out of playing traditional music altogether, using a metronome instead to emphasize holding a beat. "Using only pop songs because they're fun and catchy is like allowing kids to eat ice cream all day without any nourishment."

Morigerato isn't afraid to acknowledge that tap, for many dance students, is not their favorite discipline. Incorporating stimulating music can be a valuable teaching tool to sway the reluctant tap student, a concept he continues to explore. "Maybe students can come away from the class thinking it was less about the steps and more about the musicality, keeping time and making music."

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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