Over-60s Tap into dancers’ knowledge

Australian dance company The Tap Pack enthused members of our over-60 Lilian Baylis Arts Club (LBAC) last week with a workshop inspired by the smash hit show they recently presented at The Peacock.  Three dancers from the troupe entertained 20 LBAC members, sharing their in-depth knowledge of tap with them and leading them in a practical dance session.

Cast member Jesse Rasmussen has previously toured with Beyoncé and ran two hip hop dance companies. He has a wide range of professional credits in live entertainment, commercial dance and within the film and television industry, including on Australia’s So You Think You Can Dance, the Australian tour of Hot Shoe Shuffle, Peter Jackson’s King Kong and George Millar’s Happy Feet.

Thomas J Egan, another of the The Tap Pack dancers, worked as a commercial dancer in Sydney with Kylie Minogue, Delta Goodrem, Timomatic, Jessica Mauboy, X-Factor, Australia’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance and Channel V. He also appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s film The Great Gatsby, landing his first world-wide tour with Tap Dogs in the same year.

Kevin Smith is Company Stage Manager with The Tap Pack and has over 18 years’ experience in the entertainment industry. Kevin has performed in worldwide venues including the Sydney Opera House, the Vaudeville Theatre, the National Theatre Wales, Wales Millennium Centre and Birmingham Hippodrome.

Jesse, Thomas and Kevin pooled their experience to offer a memorable and exciting session for all involved. See the video below for a glimpse of the infectious energy they brought to the LBAC.


From Tap workshops to behind the scenes talks with musical directors, LBAC is our weekly over-60s session. Running on an academic timetable (Sep – July), membership costs £20 which can be paid over the counter at our Ticket Office. To find out more – visit the Sadler’s Wells website



Australia’s finest tap-dancing troop, The Tap Pack, will be bringing a touch of old school cool to The Peacock this May with their toe-tapping show combining songs, sharp wit and slick suits for an evening of pure entertainment. In the countdown to their arrival, we’ve been inspired to look back at the some of our favourite tap dance routines from the big screen. 

This musical number is probably one of the most iconic dance scenes in cinema, but it’s that couch-tipping moment which impresses us the most. Apparently the scene took 40 takes to capture but from the finished result, you’d never guess that Debbie Reynolds has no previous dance experience!

The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard and Harold, give an outstanding performance in the finale to Stormy Weather. It’s no wonder Fred Astaire named the pair as his own tap heroes! The film also showcased the talents of its African-American cast which was rare to see in a Hollywood movie of that time.

3. SWING TIME (1936)
It’s only right that one of the most famous dance duos of the silver screen are featured in our top 10. This clip of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire from the movie Swing Time is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Working titles for the film, included I Won’t Dance and Never Gonna Dance.

4. TAP (1989)
Gregory Hines plays the ex-convict son of a famous tap dancer, taking over his father’s Harlem tap studio and features the final film performance from Sammy Davis Jr. Aside from the obvious title, this move made our top 5 for its spectacular finale scene. Viewers should also look out for the singing talents of the great Etta James in the Times Square club scene!

5. CHICAGO (2002)
Richard Gere won a Golden Globe for his role in the 2002 movie remake of this Kander and Ebb classic, and it’s no wonder given he trained for months to deliver this impressive tap routine! It is rumoured that both Hugh Jackman and John Travolta turned down the role of Lawyer Billy Flynn before it was eventually offered to Gere.

The Tap Pack runs at The Peacock from 1 to 19 May. Tickets are available now priced from £15 by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8222 or book online.

Tapping into Michelle Dorrance

We spoke to Michelle Dorrance, founding member of tap sensation Dorrance Dance, about her career to date and the inspiration behind her work.

1. Tell us a bit about Dorrance Dance, how did the company come about?
The truth about what elements in my life led me to establish Dorrance Dance: I danced for almost too many New York City-based tap dance projects, companies, and choreographers from my late teens through my mid-twenties. I developed a solo career during that time as well, which extended through my time performing with STOMP in my late-twenties. I simultaneously started playing bass in my best friend’s band (Darwin Deez – who had some great songs in rotation on BBC Radio 1 not too long ago!) and we toured the US, UK, parts of Europe and Australia, before I realized I was trying to do WAY too much. It wasn’t until I broke my foot at the age of 30 that I was struck with how pertinent it was for me to put my vision for the possibilities I saw in tap dance, and in very specific tap dancers, first. This timing was met with a great opportunity to premiere new work at New York City’s beloved Danspace Project and the company was formed!

More formally, I created Dorrance Dance in hopes to share the incredibly dynamic range that tap dance has to offer; in order to engage with audiences on a musical and emotional level through dance; in order to spread the great history and legacy of this American art form throughout the country and the world. Of course, I love experimenting, creating my own work, my own choreography, my own compositions, but I love sharing the brilliant individual voices and styles that are pushing the form forward today.

2. How did you first become interested in tap dancing?
By 8 years old there was nothing I loved more than tap dance. What could possibly be more exciting than being a dancer and a musician at the same time?! My mother was a professional ballet dancer and I studied at her school from age 3 to 17. During this time, I was incredibly lucky to have Gene Medler as my tap teacher and mentor. He sought out the living masters of our form (people like “Honi” Coles, Buster Brown, “Peg Leg” Bates, Jimmy Slyde, The Nicholas Brothers, Cholly Atkins, who at the time were in their 70s, 80s, and 90s) and he took us all over the United States to study with them. He is a master educator and taught us the history of tap dance, its cultural significance, and its unique nature as both a form of movement AND music. I performed throughout the States and internationally with his North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble (NCYTE) for 10 years and I am the dancer I am today, because of him.

3. ETM: Double Down uses electronic boards to add to the sounds of your footwork, can you tell us about how this works? What does this add to the performance for you as a performer?
ETM: Double Down features what is essentially an electronic drum kit for the feet, designed by my choreographic collaborator, co-creator, and dear friend, Nicholas Van Young. Each small board that we play with out feet (we call them trigger boards) is connected to a computer and can be assigned any sound, note, instrument, anything you can imagine! Then, the entire set can change! Nicholas originally designed this particular way of interfacing with the technology in order to compose music live WHILE dancing/soloing to it. What we have been exploring in ETM: DD is the way our percussive composition/choreography for our feet can interface with a musical composition, where sometimes the dance is literally the dance of playing ONLY the melody or baseline of a song, and sometimes the dancers straddle the playing of a few notes each in order to make up the entire composition, while simultaneously executing separate tap choreography/percussive score. When you are in the midst of it, it is totally mind-blowing.

4. As well as using the electronic tap boards, ETM: Double Down also features live musicians. What’s the process of creating a dance piece so integrated in music? Are the musicians involved from day one?
First and foremost, we work with some very special musicians who love and respect tap dance and have a tremendous sensitivity to its collaborative, percussive compositional element. The development of the original music that we use in ETM happened in a myriad of ways so I’ll give you a number of fun examples: Nicholas Young, my co-choreographer composed some of the oldest segments in the show and was working on those before choreography started. He was the only composer around for “day one”. Greg Richardson, our bassist, composed a brilliant work for fun while we were in the creative process for ETM: The Initial Approach, never intending to have to play it live, but we absolutely fell in LOVE with it so he adapted the entire build of it to his looping pedal in tandem with dancers playing a repeating patterns on trigger boards that shift every 20 counts!

When we realized how we wanted to introduce ETM: Double Down to the audience conceptually and logistically, we asked one of our dancers, Warren Craft (who is also an electronic music composer), to work on the very opening segment for the show with very specific guidelines in relationship to how many trigger boards we could move with x number of dancers on stage at once. Once we were working on a section we call “piano” (in which 16 boards are lined up side by side), Donovan Dorrance, our pianist/controllorist (also my brother), composed an entire piece with the direction of dancers’ movement up and down a scale, toward and away from one another, in mind. And our vocalist, Aaron Marcellus IMPROVISES compositions (literally composing live every night) by layering his vocals on top of themselves using a Nintendo wi-mote. The compositional process for this show is incredibly arduous, but also extraordinarily rewarding!!

5. You were here at beginning of the year, performing an extract of ETM: Double Down as part of Sampled. What are you most looking forward to about performing the full ETM: Double Down at Sadler’s Wells?
We are most looking forward to connecting to, engaging, and ROCKING with the beautiful people of London, sharing with you all what we love most, illustrating how cutting edge and sophisticated tap dance is and inspiring less familiar audiences to see the endless possibilities in it! The extract we performed for “Sampled” was a tiny glimpse into only the acoustic section of the show. We are using this technology on a scale and in a way that has never before been done and we are SO EXCITED to bring this work to London and are honored to be performing at Sadler’s Wells!

You can see Dorrance Dance in action 12 – 15 July. Click here for more details.