What My Teacher Taught Me: Tony Waag

Tony Waag (center) performing in ATDF's 2016 Tap Treasures Concert. Photo courtesy of ATDF

When American Tap Dance Foundation artistic director Tony Waag was in college, he attended a tap workshop conducted by Brenda Bufalino. The two hit it off, and Bufalino became his mentor. From the get-go, Bufalino was supportive of Waag's stylistic choices.


“She always encouraged me to have my own voice. I came out of a musical theater background, and I idolized people like Ray Bolger and Donald O'Connor, so I was really more of a song and dance man. Even though she was very into jazz rhythm tap, she said go for it: 'Sing. Dance. Play the ukulele. It's all great!' She even bought me my first ukulele. It started a whole trend of tap dancers today playing the ukulele. Even Michelle Dorrance plays the ukulele!"

Brenda Bufalino co-founded ATDF (originally the American Tap Dance Orchestra) with Waag in 1986. She teaches master classes in New York City and worldwide. This year, she won the Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance for her revolutionary work expanding the art of tap dance.

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