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December 2021: West Coast Tap Dance Collective
How would you describe West Coast Tap Dance Collective in a sentence?
We are tap dance cheerleaders! We exist to support and promote tap dance and tap dance students, teachers, artists, and enthusiasts.
What were your artistic paths that led you to building the company?
In 2003 a group of professional tap dancers and tap teachers called ‘The Urban Tap Squad’ saw the lack of opportunities for local tap dancers to connect, share and perform. This led two of the members; Carmelle Cachero and the Artistic Director, Jennifer Bishop, to find the Collective.
What inspires the work you do in the company?
The Collective aims to serve the needs of the tap community so each year our programming is a little bit different. Sometimes we fill the need in education with ‘Tap Talks’ about the history of the art form, or sometimes we fill the need for a performance platform and run tap jams and produce shows. Every year is a little different. The past year and a half all of our programming has gone online and much of it has been free for the community to access.
How would you describe dance’s impact on your lives?
For every member of West Coast Tap, dance just makes our lives better. Be that through the connections we make with people, the positive effects on our bodies or the therapeutic effects it has on the brain; dance is a positive thing in our lives.
What are the core values of your company in three words?
Honour, connect, support
Do you have a particular practice that you carry out each day or have you implemented new practices as a way of adapting to the current climate?
Tap dance has always been an art form that honours its past. It is a distinctly African American dance form that has a rich history of incredible Black artists. Events in the past few years have reminded the tap community of the importance of this history, and these artists, being acknowledged, learned about, and celebrated.
What’s coming up for you this season? How have you adjusted your programming during the COVID-19 pandemic? And what are you most looking forward to doing moving forward?
Our flagship event is the annual West Coast Tap Fest; a weekend of tap workshops and performances to celebrate National Tap Dance Day every year in May. The last 2 years this event has been held online but in 2022 we are SO hoping to return to Scotiabank Dance Centre for our event IN-PERSON on May 28 &29.
What would you say are the most significant benefits for you in being a Dance Centre member?
Being a member of The Dance Centre connects us and our tap community to the dance community at large. We love hosting our annual Tap Day Festival at The Dance Centre. The building is beautiful, the tap studios upstairs are so bright and lovely, and the theatre is a great size for our community.
This year, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Scotiabank Dance Centre. What impact do you feel the building has had on the dance community, our city, and/or your own practice?
West Coast Tap will be celebrating our 20th anniversary next year, so we feel like we have grown up with The Dance Centre! Having a building that is dedicated to dance – classes, performances, artist-in-residence, dancer’s support – provides a hub, a touchstone for the dance community that is so very important.
Interested in becoming a Dance Centre Member? Learn more here
Photos by courtesy of the artists