Just in case there currently isn’t quite enough clamor and clatter echoing through your house, be forewarned that Friday, May 25, 2012 is National Tap Dance Day. You might wish to huddle indoors lest a renegade Shirley Temple wannabe inspire one of your children to join the melee!
On the other hand, if you’ve reached a point where you would actually appreciate some purpose and structure – daresay, even grace – to the otherwise random noise-making, then there is no better time to introduce your kids to this uniquely American art-form (which, by the by, helped Shirley Temple’s family survive the Depression thanks to her colossal earnings).
The big celebratory evening in New York City is the 23rd Annual ExtraTAPganza on Saturday, May 26 at 6:00 pm in Norman Thomas High School (111 E. 33rd Street). Dozens of local groups will be performing, guaranteeing an explosion of music, rhythm, color, costumes, and noise, and thus naturally perfect for families with children of all ages. Tickets are $50, $35 and $25. Click on the website for more details.
Then, fortunately, if your kids leave the show scuffing the soles of their sneakers and awash with a newfound yen to learn a little soft-shoe, living in and near Manhattan means a cornucopia of classes and lesson options:
The School at Steps on Broadway
Want to tell people your child dances on Broadway? This is the place! (No need to mention it’s the actual street, not the fabled Great White Way.) The School at Steps accepts students as young as two years old into their Young Dancers Program, which is specifically designed to introduce creative movement exercises that foster body coordination, rhythmic awareness, and a path to exploring their own imagination. (Plus, it’s adorable to watch). The best part is, The School at Steps is located right next door to Fairway Market, one of NYC’s premiere shopping destinations. Meaning that, the minute the classes become Drop-Off, it’s time to load up on freshly baked bread, wild Alaskan Salmon, and more kinds of cheeses than you ever dreamed possible!
The Broadway Dance Center
322 West 45th Street
Another Broadway based-location, The Broadway Dance Center is a place for theater professionals to continue honing their craft… and for pre-schoolers to take their first steps. Three and four year olds are invited to take a one-hour Creative Movement class that introduces basic tap technique along with fundamental ballet positions. Four and five year olds can do the same in Pre-Dance, while six year olds and up are eligible for a specialized Tap Only class.
Little Stars Performing Arts
224 E. 47th Street
Almost directly across town is Little Stars Performing Arts, a program that focuses primarily on beginners of all ages, without the pressure frequently present in schools with competitive, pre-professional divisions. Pre-Tap is available for three and four year olds, while five and six year olds can sign up for Tap I. And for parents inspired to get into the act, there’s even a Ballet Basics for Grown Ups!
Ballet Academy East
1651 Third Avenue
A favorite among Upper East Side families, Ballet Academy East starts their tap offerings at age 3 ½ in the belief that this indigenous dance form, with its emphasis on rhythm, is a fun and exciting opportunity for students to develop physical coordination and musicality. The school, however, becomes ballet only after children reach the age of seven.
American Youth Dance Theater
428 East 75th Street
A dozen or so blocks South, however, is American Youth Dance Theater, where a Tap/Jazz intro begins at four, but beginners are accepted as late as fifth grade (though private lesson to catch up are suggested). Afterwards, there is an Intermediate, Teen, and Advanced Tap less, as well.
Downtown Dance Factory
Billing themselves as NYC hippest dance studio, Downtown Dance Factory in Tribeca has a Tap/Ballet KindiCombo class which allows students ages three to five to experience the gentle, imaginative, and classical world of ballet alongside the fast-paced, rhythmical, loud world of tap. A launching pad for the dancer who wants to do everything, KindiCombo allows students to gain experience in two disciplines at an age appropriate level and prepares them to continue with Downtown Dance Factory training as they grow
Harlem School of the Arts
645 Saint Nicholas Avenue at 141st Street
Finally, uptown at the Harlem School of the Arts, aspiring professionals train down the hall from neighborhood kids just looking to have some fun. Five and six year olds can take a Mini Taps class, while seven year olds are eligible for Beginning Tap.
And once they’ve got a little experience under their tiny dance belts (i.e. an idea of just how hard making dance look easy truly is), you might want to broaden their horizons with a few other performances over the summer.
An exhibition of modern tap dance rhythms fused with a variety of outside art forms on Friday, June 1, at Symphony Space on the Upper West Side.
An entire week (July 7-13) celebrating Tap Dancing with student showcases, movies, competitions, and a free, public, outdoor performance at the World Financial Center Marina on Friday, July 13th.
Plus, Saturday, July 7 at noon in Marcus Garvey Park (East 120th Street and Madison Avenue), everyone is invited to a no-cost introductory tap dancing class for children and adults – they’ll even supply the shoes!
Come to think of it, maybe the whole family should start with that… See how it goes, before investing in that professional career.
— Alina Adams