A Postcard from Hillary-Marie, Founder And Director of Jersey Tap Fest
On Tap's Oral History And More
The first time I slipped your feet into a pair of tap shoes...
was at maybe 12 years old. At the time, they didn't have a beginner tap class for dancers my age so I was in class with the babies! But instead of being discouraged and turned off, I asked my father if he could bring up a piece of plywood from the basement so I could practice and advance to higher levels. Within a few years, I was in the highest level class that my studio had to offer and at age 14, I joined the New Jersey Tap Ensemble, which brought me to venturing out in the tap world, discovering master classes, tap festivals, tap jams and other beautiful opportunities to grow and learn.
Tap dance is special because...
it is a percussive dance form and unlike many other styles of dance, we make music through our movement. This also leaves us with a heavier responsibility because we're not only required to hone our technique, grow within our improvisation and learn our history, but also study music theory, ear train, collaborate with live musicians and learn jazz standards. From there, we have the ability to find our own inidividual voice within the art form. As music is the universal language of the world, I like to think that this gives us a unique ability to reach a wide audience.
For the first time this year at Jersey Tap Fest...
we are welcoming Ayodele Casel, Claudia Rahardjanoto, #TAPLIFE and FutureSTEP Tap Company. I'm personally extra excited for FutureSTEP Tap Company, as this is my new resident tap dance company at Grooves Unlimited Dance Studio in New Jersey and their performance at Jersey Tap Fest's main stage event TAP 'N TIME will be the company's debut.
An oral history...
The Library of Congress houses a tap dance archive and we have multiple beautiful books dedicated to the history of tap dance, but the truth is that the entire history of our art form sits in the laps of the tap dance community. So much of what I learned about tap dance wasn't contained in the studio, but in stories told in the dressing rooms or at after-show dinner hang outs. It's up to us to seek out these unique stories that accompany the steps and to pass down the steps and stories.
It's painful when someone says that my art form is "dying". Tap dance is alive and well, especially considering that it's internationally reognized. In the last year, I worked with dancers in Central America, Europe, Asia and countless studios in the U.S. There's no doubt that tap dance as an American art form has had a global impact. However, tap dance is extremely underground and needs help being uprooted and placed back into the mainstream so it can receive the visibility that it once had and still deserves. We as a community are working hard to find the balance in seeking mainstream recognition while honoring our past and simultaneously being progressive. Tap dance has an amazing history of both suffering and triumph. I think that the future of the dance is bright and I'm thankful everyday that I can be a part of it.
Jersey Tap Fest
Hillary-Marie & FutureSTEP Tap Company