Music to move a younger generation of rhythm tappers
Though the sounds come from his feet, Josh Scribner believes that tap really happens in the upper body. "I try to put the physical interpretation of hip hop into tap. The way you lean your body emphasizes a certain beat both visually and sonically," he says. Scribner, who recently worked as a swing for New York City's Cirque du Soleil, also encourages his students at Premiere Dance Center in Seattle to study hip hop to pick up its free-form, interpretive approach. "You can take from 10 different teachers and immediately get 10 different styles," he says. "It's important to learn how to present yourself in tons of ways."
Tappers are foremost percussionists, but like most dancers, their ultimate goal is to entertain. "A good dancer doesn't necessarily have the most amazing technique," he says. "You can have an infectious personality or something unique that allows the audience to connect with your dancing."
A good way to captivate a crowd (and your students) is to modernize a basic technique. Scribner does this by using contemporary music in class and performance. He likes to find remixed jazz classics, matching his song selections to his philosophy as a teacher. "It's important to understand the roots of your artform while remembering that it should evolve," he says. "You can combine serious rhythm tap instruction while still being accessible to a younger generation." DT
Artist: Pretty Lights
Song: "Electro Cali"
"This is one of those songs you turn on and everyone immediately wants to move to it—it takes a pretty cold soul not to. Its high energy level wakes them up immediately. It's good for warm-ups and fast 16th-note improvs. And it's not super repetitive, so you have lots of different elements to play with."
Artist: Eugene Maslov
Song: "Clear Out Of This World"
"This is a great way to introduce younger dancers to jazz music. It has a strong baseline and a groove that's easy to get into, so it's great for improv, but also for combos across the floor. It has a surprising break in it that the kids always love to pick out and play with."
Artist: Peter Malick featuring Nora Jones
Song: "New York City—DJ Strobe Brooklyn Broken Beat Remix"
"This is R&B meets jazz meets hip hop that's accessible for a lot of people. It's a song that both adults and kids love. I use this a lot for final combinations. It's fun to choreograph to, because you can sit back into a lazier groove."
Song: "Straight Heat"
"I use this for choreography and advanced combinations. You can really meld with this music because there are a lot of unexpected rhythm variations and moments you can play with as a choreographer. And there are clever breaks throughout the whole song."
Artist: Ella Fitzgerald
Song: "Slap That Bass (Miguel Migs Petalpusher Remix)"
"Here's a modern interpretation of a classic. This has an ambient aesthetic because her voice echoes throughout the whole song. It also has a really danceable beat that's great for warm-ups or exercises that are more 16th-note-based."
Photo by Christopher Ambler, courtesy of Josh Scribner