Step it up
Only eight youngsters are chosen each year to perform in one of the most respected tap shows in America, Tap Kids, and now festival audiences can join in too.
Like many good ideas, Tap Kids was born out of the desire to give something back. As a professional dancer and teacher in New York City, Lisa Hopkins noticed a dearth of opportunities for young tap dancers to train. So, in 2000, having just moved to a picturesque village 20 miles north of the Big Apple, Hopkins set up a summer ‘intensive’. By the end of the week, as the village community gathered for a showcase performance, the future of the project became clear.
“We never thought about turning the workshops into a show until we saw that first showcase,” recalls Hopkins. “And we all said ‘gosh, we need to write a show that captures this incredible energy!’ Because it was unbelievable – they were all so passionate about what they were doing.” Ten years later, Tap Kids is the most respected professional tap show in America, and has toured extensively throughout the USA and beyond.
Directed and choreographed by Hopkins, with original music composed by her husband, Philip Stern, the entire project has been what Hopkins terms “a labour of love.” The summer intensives attract dozens of talented youngsters each summer, but only eight dancers are cherry picked by Hopkins to appear in the actual show.
One such dancer is Brittany Parks, a young Texan who was spotted by Hopkins at the age of nine. So impressed was Hopkins, that she offered Parks a full scholarship to the inaugural summer intensive — and a decade later she’s still a Tap Kid. “It’s been a huge life change for me,” says Parks. “Because the other Tap Kids aren’t just fellow dancers, they’ve become my family. I get the opportunity to perform with people who love the same things as me and it’s so much fun, I enjoy every minute of it.”
Now based in Los Angeles, Parks combines her Tap Kids engagements with other commercial dance work, such as recent performances with Rihanna and Justin Timberlake. As Hopkins observed right at the start of the project, all of the young dancers involved are full of energy and utterly committed. So, what does it take to be a Tap Kid? “Practice, practice, practice,” says Parks. “Any chance I get I’ll improvise by myself or with other people — it’s all about practising.”
The show itself revolves around a group of high school students – their hopes, their first loves and finally, their graduation day. Aged 18-21, the dancers all have high school fresh in their memory, but, having grown up in different parts of America, each bring something unique to the table. “Everyone in the show is completely different,” says Parks. “We’re all individuals and we all have our own style, and audiences definitely enjoy that aspect of it.”
Tap Kids, New Town Theatre, Freemason’s Hall, 5 – 30 August (not 17), 5.45pm
If you like this, try Box at The Spaces @ Royal College of Surgeons, August 18-21)