The greatest tap dancers could hold an audience’s attention with their charisma,” says Max Pollak, who spent time with legends Buster Brown, Jimmy Slyde, Chuck Green and Lon Chaney during weekly tap jam sessions at New York City jazz club La Cave. “Sometimes, you can learn more having breakfast and listening to one of them recalling their life than taking 700 dance classes.” The biggest lesson that Pollak took from the greats? Simply tap dancing isn’t enough to truly make it—every artist needs something special. Pollak studied ballet, jazz, theater and music, and, over time, he developed his own signature style, RumbaTap. Now, he keeps audiences in awe with a unique combination of tapping, singing, clapping, body percussion and fiery music.

An Austria native, Pollak was first introduced to Afro-Cuban music while performing in a band with Latin percussionist Bobby Sanabria, an influence that led to the development of Pollak’s style. “RumbaTap is more of an integrated percussion style than a tap dance style,” he says.

Pollak has toured extensively with his music/dance ensemble, performing, teaching and holding university residencies worldwide. There are three things that he describes as key ingredients: African-American rhythm tap dance, body percussion and, most importantly, Afro-Cuban folkloric music. His classes are structured like music classes, focusing on musicality, rhythmic patterns and how they fit together like puzzle pieces. “At first, the students are making the music,” he says. “Their feet become a metronome, and their voices and hands each do different rhythms. I bring recorded music in a little bit later.” DT

Artist: Los Muñequitos de Matanzas

Album: Afrocubanismo! Live

“Los Muñequitos de Matanzas are my mentors. I’ve performed with them, and they have had a very big impact on my artistic growth. I like to start with Afro-Cuban folkloric music like this, because you can hear all of its parts very clearly, which helps students understand the music that comes later in class.”


Artist: Slavic Soul Party!

Album: Taketron

“This great band from Brooklyn mixes Balkan and Turkish music with New York–style brass-band funk. I use crazier music like this when I teach improvisation. It has odd meters, and it’s a little difficult to decipher. I want to challenge students to really improvise without relying on steps they have rehearsed, so I like to throw them curveballs.”

Artist: Lenine

Album: Lenine

“Lenine has elements of northeastern Brazilian folkloric music. It’s unusual and groovy. People connect to the funkiness, because this guy is a great guitar player. The sound engineering is interesting; it sounds like everything is moving around. And if you speak a little Portuguese, his lyrics are very good.”

Artist: The Paul Carlon Octet

Album: Roots Propaganda

“Roxane Butterfly, Tamango and I used to perform in tap jams with saxophonist Paul Carlon. His band (now called Los Américas) plays music from the Caribbean, Colombia, Brazil and Cuba mixed with jazz. My tap dancing is recorded on some of their CDs. If there’s a certain pattern on the recording, students can listen to it and dance along, then turn it off and try it by themselves.”

Artist: Max Pollak’s RumbaTap

Album: RumbaTap

“My group’s CD comes out this summer. The percussion comes from six tappers dancing on custom-built boxes or cajons. We don’t have a bass or a piano, but a marimba and three saxophones, which represent the three sacred Bata drums in Afro-Cuban spiritual music. And we have two vocalists. The approach is folkloric, but the expression is through dance and through the rhythms of the hands, feet and voice.”

Photo by Michael Melnyk, courtesy of Max Pollak

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

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Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

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Q: I'm trying to think of ways to maximize studio space and revenue during the summer. What has worked for you?

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AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

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In 2019, dance parents are more eager than ever to observe their child's progress, and stay up-to-date with the ins and outs of what's happening in the classroom. That means yearly recitals aren't always enough to keep them satisfied—especially if you have rules against visitors observing class from week to week. The solution? Visitor observation weeks. Trust us, the guardians and loved ones of your students will love you for it!

We caught up with Suzanne Blake Gerety, vice president of Kathy Blake Dance Studios and regular contributor to Dance Teacher's "Ask The Experts" column, to hear her tips on how to have a successful visitor observation week.

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Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

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Adequate dorsiflexion mobility is needed to find a supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely. Getty Images

Dancers are trained to think often about the range of motion, stability and power of their extended lines: the point of the foot, the reach of the penché, the explosion of the sauté in the air. But finding that same mix of flexibility and strength in the flexed foot is just as integral to technique and injury prevention. Without adequate dorsiflexion mobility, it is nearly impossible to find the kind of supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely.

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Sponsored by World Class Vacations
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New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

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Site Network
Irina Kolpakova in the studio with Katherine Williams. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe

Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.

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Photo by The Fleet, courtesy of Lion's Jaw Festival

Growing up in New Jersey, Lisa Race trained with a memorable dance teacher: Fred Kelly, the younger brother of famous tapper Gene. "Fred would introduce our recitals," she says. "He would always cartwheel down the stairs." It wasn't until years later, when Race was pursuing her master's degree and chose to write a research paper on Kelly, that she realized there was a clear connection between her own movement style—improvisational and floor-based—and his. "In this television clip I watched, Fred jumps up to the piano, then jumps off it—he's going up and down and around," she says. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, all this time, I've thought of my dancing as my own, but that's where it started!' Moving upside-down and into the floor. There's a thread there. I rerouted it in different ways, but there's a connection."

Now, as a professor at Connecticut College, she concentrates on how to introduce her students to that love and freedom of upside-down work—and how to best prepare them for life after graduation, no matter what dance path they take.

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Studio Owners
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It's summertime, which means we're all starting to feel HOT! HOT! HOT!

While a warm room is certainly better than a cold room when it comes to dancing, you don't want your students to get heat stroke at your studio. To help you survive this sweaty time of year, here are tips and tricks that will keep your classrooms comfortable for an excellent class.

Enjoy!

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