It was an event to remember filled with tap dancing, prizes, smiles, and fun! The Thomas Armour Youth Ballet Tap Team got to attend their first tap festival. The event is called the So-Flo Tap Festival and it is held in Lake Worth, Florida. The festival is produced by the studio owner of That’s Dancing, Andrea Lamaina and one of the faculty members, Nicole Smith. This festival has been happening annually for the past four years. Faculty members have included, Derick Grant, Jason Samuels Smith, Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards, Ayodele Casel, Maud Arnold, Lee Howard, and more.
This years festival faculty included the legendary Dianne Walker, Melinda Sullivan, Aaron Tolson, Gabriel Winns Ortiz, Debbi Dee, Thommie Retter, and a bonus class by up and coming tapper Sydney Burtis.
Dianne Walker danced with Leon Collins, Jimmy Slyde, Ralph Brown, Buster Brown, Lon Chaney, Chuck Green, Bunny Briggs and Savion Glover as part of the “Hoofers Line.” Dianne was featured in both the original Paris production and the two year Broadway run of Claudio Segovia and Hector Orezzoli’s musical Black and Blue. You can see Dianne, as one of the Shim Sham girls, in the movie Tap starring Gregory Hines.
Melinda Sullivan was the first tap dancer to make Top 10 of So You Think You Can Dance. She was also the first tap all star in Season 10. Melinda is the recipient of the 2012 Capezio Award for Choreographic Excellence, and she was named among the “25 to Watch” in Dance Magazine.
Aaron Tolson is a national spokesperson for dance wear company SoDanca, a consultant and writer for Dance Spirit Magazine, a Professor of Dance at Plymouth State University and the Boston Conservatory, as well as the assistant choreographer, co-creator and assistant producer of the acclaimed stage production Imagine Tap!.
Gabriel Winns Ortiz toured with the critically acclaimed stage show Tap Kids, and continues to perform and teach with them, both nationally and internationally. Gabriel now lives in New York City and has worked with many dance companies, including Dorrance Dance, Rumba Tap, and SwingFX.
Debbie Dee is recognized as a Master Teacher in Japan, France, South America, and Canada. Debbi has performed professionally as a Soloist on Broadway, Lincoln Center, Las Vegas, USO shows and Nightclubs, as well as performing on television and in movies.
Thommie Retter had a three and a half year run on Broadway with, Billy Elliot The Musical. Thommie has students in a variety of Broadway shows including; Matilda The Musical, Annie The Musical, Kinky Boots The Musical, The Assembled Parties, Newsies, Fly and the US touring company of Billy Elliot The Musical.
Sydney Burtis is a young tapper, 17 years old. She is a Young Arts finalist for 2017. When Sydney was younger she performed in the national Broadway tour of Billy Elliot. You can also see her in the tap documentary Tap World by Chloe and Maud Arnold. Sydney produced the first ever Orlando Tap Festival this year.
The festival ran for two days, three classes on Friday night and four classes on Saturday. The festival has three different levels. Intermediate/Advanced, Advanced, and Pre-Professional. The younger tap team members, Isabella Carratala, Nami Chung-Vastine, and Amanda Leslie took the Intermediate/Advanced track while Aminah and Naimah Angrand, Destiny Delancy, Victoria Smith, and Tap Team director Natasha Williams took the Pre-Professional track.
One of the best moments of the festival was when Natasha and the Senior members of the Tap Team performed 53, a famous Leon Collins dance, for Dianne Walker. Natasha met Dianne back in 2010 at a Jacob’s Pillow audition in Miami. Natasha was accepted into the first ever tap program. This was when Natasha took her knowledge of tap to a new level. At this festival she learned Routine 2, another classic dance that was choreographed by Leon Collins. Later that same year Natasha attended the Boston Tap Festival where Dianne taught 53. Natasha passed these dances along with others to her students. It was a proud moment to have such a legend as Dianne see history being passed down and preserved.
Many awards were given out at the So-Flo Tap Festival. The Tap Team was award ten $100 certificates from Capezio. Destiny Delancy was chosen by Melinda Sullivan to receive a custom pair of Capezio k360 tap shoes. Aminah Angrand was chosen by Debbi Dee to receive a full scholarship to next year’s festival.
The Tap Team plans to attend this festival every year! Students from That’s Dancing will be joining the Tap Team this year for our annual Halloween Show on Sunday, October 29th.
For more information about that Tap Team Halloween Show contact Natasha at natasha.williams.tap