Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival's #Tapdance was an emotional evening of incredible stories

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#Tapdance | Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival | Orpheum Annex | August 25, 2018

Legendary tales, joyful tears, and incredible #tapdance: this was an emotional show dedicated to all the mentors who made these dancers who they are today. Travis Knights directed this evening of storytelling through both words and movement, and he was joined by fellow tappers Heather Cornell, Sarah Reich, Matt Shields, and Alex Clancy as well as an live band featuring drummer Nick Fraser.

In the low light, all five tappers formed a circle and began slowly building a rhythm. The evening grew from there as the personal stories of mentorship and careers growing over time led into solos and interludes that led into more storytelling. Knights described tap as a way of life, a passion, and part of an oral tradition that passes stories from one generation to the next. It’s music and dance all in one.

Reich shared her story of meeting Harold “Stumpy” Cromer for the first time and how he became her mentor, confidant, and close friend. He always told her, “You gotta sing,” so she took his advice and sang “On Broadway” for us, in memory of her beloved mentor who taught her so much. Her solo dedicated to him was beautiful.

Shields told us about his private lesson with Heather Cornell that changed his life. He teared up as he described how important it was to have someone care so much about his tap dancing and take an interest in helping him turn it into a career. Cornell was there to tell her own stories of mentors such as Steve Condos and bassist Ray Brown. She feels honoured to now be a mentor to others. Her sandbox solo, passed on to her by Harriet “Quicksand” Browne, one of the few female tap pioneers and a member of the Silverbelles, was particularly memorable as it’s a rare sight these days.

Reich performed another solo that will be on her new tap album, New Change, by her band the Tap Music Project. With this project, she aims to focus on tap as a musical instrument and also create new music specifically for tap dance. Both her original composition and choreography were a breath of fresh air, and each time she dances she exudes joy and confidence.

Each of these dancers has their own incredible story of how they were inspired, encouraged, and guided by their mentors, and their diverse dance styles show how versatile tap is as an art form. Cornell reminded us that rhythm is a universal language, and it’s clear that these dancers speak it very well.  

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