Of all the dance forms out there, tap may be the least in the public eye. It lacks some of the cachet of ballet and the vast popularity of hip hop and contemporary dance.
But that won't always be true if the Vancouver Tap Dance Society has anything to say about it.
The society is staging its 14th annual Vancouver International Tap Festival this weekend, running Aug. 30 to Sept. 1. With workshops and master classes by day and showcase performances by night, the festival is designed to celebrate all things tap.
"Everyone should come and experience it," says Amanda Georgeson, a dancer from Burnaby who's part of the festival. "Even if you haven't tap danced, you'll enjoy the shows."
Georgeson noted the festival is packed full of opportunities to learn from the best dancers around and for performers to take part in large staged productions, which isn't always the case.
"The Vancouver festival is known for the big productions they put on," she says, noting that's a bonus for the dancers. "It's nice that we have the opportunity to do that."
Georgeson will be on stage Friday night in the festival's Super Natural B.C. Tap night, showcasing top dancers from around the province.
She'll be offering up a four-minute piece involving three B.C. dancers whom she grew up with, choreographed to music that will be performed by a live band.
She's also part of Tap Variations, an eight-minute performance number that began as a project for International Tap Day in May - with three artists bringing original songs to a group of dancers, who collaboratively worked to choreograph one large number.
It's just one of many projects Georgeson has on the go, since she's busy working in the commercial industry and also teaches at several schools around the Lower Mainland.
That she's been able to make a career out of doing what she loves is something Georgeson is grateful for.
The 26-year-old has been dancing since she was three but didn't get into tap until she was about 14, when a teacher introduced her to it and she had a chance to travel and experience tap dance in Germany, L.A. and New York.
"I really found a love for it," she says, noting she was drawn to its history. "It's such an old art form."
As with most dancers, Georgeson has training and experience in multiple other dance styles - jazz, lyrical, contemporary, hip hop, ballet.
But there's something special about tap for her.
"For me, it's like playing an instrument. It's so musical. It's always changing and creating," she says. "Tap is always different, it's always evolving."
In many ways, she says, it's even more challenging than some other dance forms, because it stresses rhythms - it means learning to listen, to hear the beats, to understand when to stress beats and when to step lightly.
"You have to train your ear and train your eye. You really have to listen," she says. "You're learning a trade, I feel like, when you learn tap."
She also finds tap appealing because it's less demanding on the body than some dance forms - meaning you can do it for a much longer period of time.
"It's one of those art forms you can do when you're three or 73," Georgeson says, noting she has students in her 80s. "You can do it from the day you're born until the day you die."
And, she notes, there's something about the experience of making noise with their feet that appeals to just about everyone.
"People just love putting on tap shoes," she says with a laugh.
Main festival performances include Super Natural B.C. Tap on Friday and An Evening of Ensembles on Saturday, both at 8 p.m. at the Norman Rothstein Theatre in Vancouver.
A festival-closing Hot Feet showcase is on Sunday night, Sept. 1 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre.
For full festival details, go to www.van tapdance.com or call 604-253-0293. Tickets can also be purchased through www.vancouvertix.com or by calling 604-629-8849.
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