Ellie Sciarra

I was teaching at the University of Wyoming as a guest instructor for the dance department. Typically tap is not included as standard curriculum, so as often happens, there were several beginner students mixed in with students who had some understanding of basic technique. Right up front I talked about having a “beginner mind,”  a way of working that is open, curious, while allowing their bodies and spirits to be a part of the classroom space which was already charged with excitement. I am fascinated by this creative potential that only occurs in a particular moment of time and space with a particular group of learners. I call this a “third space,” where something magical always seems to happen! In a classroom, the third space is undefined, elusive but very alive. Everyone can feel it. The students infuse who they are with what I’m giving them and a third space is created.

I love teaching. The interesting thing about tap is you have to let go. Letting go is a nice concept but how do you do it? I work with students to let go by inspiring them to take risks – giving up what they think they know and allowing something new to happen. How does your body take in information, move it into your blood and nervous system and find a way to express itself? What is ok? Is it ok to move your hips? Where’s your breath? How do you hear rhythm? How can you find joy and delight in your own body? Women often have an internal battle perceiving they aren’t enough this or that. In tap there is forgiveness around that battle; for example, what is a tap dancer “supposed” to look like?

Tap is unique because it’s auditory. What you are thinking and feeling about your body and your life comes out in your feet. You have to bring your whole self to it. You can’t fake it because it won’t sound right. If you are efforting or working too hard, the sound is tense, pushed, and doesn’t ring clearly.  Or if you’re not sure, reticent, or not quite brave enough, the shading and texture of the tap sounds will be flat and colorless. It’s pretty interesting what comes out of feet …

Ellie Sciarra  www.tapwithellie.com

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