Although April Cook always loved tap, she gives Gene Medler credit for motivating her to pursue it to the fullest. “Gene inspired me and opened my eyes to the history, and that’s what really sucked me in,” she says. “I realized I was part of this greater tapestry. We’re learning the actual steps that the people who created this artform put down, and we’re doing it verbatim—it’s like being part of a living, breathing history book every day.”

In her own tap classes, Cook begins with a set warm-up before opening the floor to her students. “My classroom is very give and take,” she says. “I like to open it up to the dancers and take requests for particular things to work on. You’d be surprised how vocal they are about it.”

When it comes to selecting music, Cook makes tap fit whatever songs she likes. “You can tap to anything—to ambient noise, to someone speaking, to cars passing outside. There’s some sort of rhythm to be found everywhere,” she says. “That’s the fun thing about finding a new piece of music. I’m usually drawn to it because I like the sound, then I start to envision how I’ll sound within it.” DT

 

 

Artist: Nina Simone

Album: Nina Simone’s Finest Hour

Song: “Love Me or Leave Me”

“This is one of my all-time favorite songs to dance to. Nina Simone sets up a nice feel in the beginning and then really shows off her musical chops in the phrasing she chooses near the middle. I use this song when we’re working on maintaining consistent tempo and feel. It’s a good exercise in not letting the complexity of her melodies confuse your downbeat or cause you to lose the ‘one.’”

 

 

Artist: LCD Soundsystem

Album: This is Happening

Song: “Home”

“I always use this song for my warm-up. I teach in the mornings usually, so it’s a great wake-up song. It has a good tempo for starting out with Condos’ Rudiments [a series of tap exercises developed by Steve Condos] then increasing to double-time for speed and clarity.”

 

 

Artist: Jamie Lidell

Album: Jamie Lidell

Song: “Do Yourself a Faver”

“This song has a nice feel and a distinguishable downbeat that lends itself well to exercises that train students to articulate sounds and keep timing even.”

 

 

Artist: Ray Charles

Song: “Hit the Road Jack”

“This is such a fun song to move to. You can’t listen to this and not start bouncing. It’s a good place to start with beginner classes, since most people know this tune and can hear where the chorus sits.”

 

 

Artist: Janet Jackson

Album: Rhythm Nation 1814

Song: “Alright”

“This New Jack Swing–style song is super-playful, and when I use it in class, I also like to show the music video. Cab Calloway, Cyd Charisse and the Nicholas Brothers are all in it.”

 

 

Artist: Jason Mraz

Album: We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.

Song: “I’m Yours”

“I like to use this song for exercises that play with accents and shading, since the song is lighter on percussion. You can really hear what the students are doing.”

 

 

 

Photo by Sandy Shelton, courtesy of Cook

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