News: The St. Louis Tap Festival Turns 19

The 19th annual St. Louis Tap Festival, July 26–31, will include master workshops, tap jams and a panel discussion at the Sheraton Hotel in Clayton, Missouri. Participants of all ages are welcome to perform in a showcase at the University of Missouri–St. Louis on Friday. The “All That Tap” show on Saturday will feature the festival’s guest artists and teachers, including Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Max Pollak and Germaine Salsberg.

 

“The point of our festival is to allow tappers to find their voice, and the teachers who I bring in are not just teaching steps, but how to really dance and be a musician with your feet,” says Professor Robert L. Reed, tap teacher, performer and founder of the St. Louis Tap Festival.

 

Gene GeBauer, former Broadway performer and founder of the University of Iowa tap program, will be honored. And Dr. Jeni LeGon, one of the first African American female tap soloists, is the festival’s special guest. “These wonderful people need to be recognized, even though they may not be in the limelight as they once were,” says Reed. “They’re still going, and they continue to pass along the joy of tap dancing.” For more: www.tapheritage.org

 

—Rachel Zar

 

Photo of Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards teaching class, courtesy of St. Louis Tap Festival.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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