Claudia Rahardjanoto: How I Teach Tap

Photo by Kyle Froman.

Claudia Rahardjanoto likes to keep her adult-beginner tap students on their toes. "The vocabulary itself is not tricky, but I make it a little bit more difficult with weight shifts," she says. "It's not always going to be the classic flap-ball-change. Maybe it's going to be a flap-heel, ball-change."

Taking basic, building-block steps—step-heels, walks, shuffles, cramp rolls, flaps—and rearranging them to create more complex phrases is fundamental to Rahardjanoto's classes at Steps on Broadway in New York City. To mix things up, she changes the timing, emphasis and sequence of steps, keeping classic tap vocabulary fresh for drop-ins and her seasoned regulars alike. Her special combination of brain-teasing exercises and a multisensory approach to tap pedagogy empowers students physically and mentally, making a beginner class feel like anything but, and in the best way.

Her first physical challenge arrives at the end of the warm-up and center work. It's what Rahardjanoto refers to as "The Marathon," and it's exactly what it sounds like: several minutes of constant movement, no stopping. The students start with some easy running flaps around the room and then transition into flap-steps, flap-ball-changes, shuffle-hops, Irishes and shuffle-ball-changes. The tempo is manageable but definitely raises the dancers' heart rates. "That takes care of the cardio part of the day," jokes Rahardjanoto.

Next up? The Quiz. She challenges her students to piece together a four- to eight-measure phrase based on terminology and rhythm alone, without her demonstrating. "OK, we're going: fa-LAP-ball-change, fa-LAP-ball-change, shuffle-step, ca-RAMP roll," she chants from her chair at the corner of the room. She gives the class a few minutes to figure out the full phrase, weaving around the room to troubleshoot problem spots with anyone who's confused. "I tell them what to do, I count it for them and I scat it for them," she says. "That way they can make sure that their brain-to-foot connection is really working."

When her students perform the combination—which always starts on the left side, as an added challenge—to music, Rahardjanoto will throw in another curveball or two, like asking her students to face the back wall instead of the mirror. "Now," she tells them, "all you have is the weight of how it feels. And you can listen to each other."

Despite so many brainteasers, the mood in the studio always remains light, thanks to her encouragement and positivity. When one student who'd been struggling with a particularly tricky across-the-floor segment finally gets it right, Rahardjanoto is right there to cheer her on. "There it is!" she says. "You got it."

Claudia Rahardjanoto is from Germany. Since 2003, she has been a professional tap dancer in New York City, and a teacher since 2004. She has performed with Michelle Dorrance, Andrew Nemr, Jared Grimes, Max Pollak, Mike Minery, Roxane Butterfly and Barbara Duffy. She currently teaches at Steps on Broadway and the American Tap Dance Foundation.

Keeko Nakadai is a freelance tap dancer in New York City.

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

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.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
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.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.