Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Today I bring you an amazing blog post by our guest blogger and guest faculty for Tap Fest, Victoria Jones! Read on to learn about her take on Identity in Tap:
One day you wake up and you decided to take tap dance. Maybe your mom made you as a child, along with ballet and jazz. Maybe you were forced to take it at your performing arts school as a part of your curriculum. Or maybe you saw a cool video once and decided to hop in on your own as a young person, and in some cases, older person. Either way, you decided to take it, continue it, and even got good in it. At this point you are now a tap dancer. You are now what you have been taught by your teacher or teachers. But then you grew up, and you decided you want to take tap to the next level. You want to become an Instructor of your own, or even better, a professional dancer. You’ve even picked up on how to improvise your own rhythms and moves. But: Who are You? What is your identity in Tap?
Identity is defined as the characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is. It is unique and one of a kind. Each and every last one of us human beings possess our own make up of DNA that is not like any other person in the world; the proof is in our fingerprints. As for a tap dancer, how can you identify yourself? Because Tap dance is a tradition that is taught and passed down through generations, it is easy to copy other people’s moves, and/or do the moves that you were taught from your teacher. But what identifies you in the dance?
For me, I personally struggled with this topic for some time now. I’ve been told to only dance like what I’ve been taught. Even though I’ve been influenced to Improvise and make my own rhythms up on the spot, I was supposed to do it certain way to gain “respect” in the tap community. As I grew in that model, I thought I was really doing something and gaining the respect I needed in the community, but, I was becoming more lost. I found myself trying to dance like others as the definition of who I was in the dance. I have also tried to switch up my style to fit more of my genre of tap dance, but I was told that it wasn’t real dancing, from people whom I’ve looked up to. How do I identify myself in tap?
Identity goes as deep as who you are as a person, not just a dancer. Who are you? Do you have faith in God? Are you an early bird or night owl? What is your personality? Are you a feminist? Are you an alpha male? Are you dominate? Are you quiet or shy? Do you have struggles with confidence? Are you bold and strong? Are you appealing and sensual? Do you have “swag”? Who you are as a person reflects how you dance. That is the way it should be, even though that is not how many people are taught. Many are taught to dance at the likes of Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire, Savion Glover, Chorus Line Girls, Dianne Walker, etc… Not discrediting any of these great individuals or groups, but dancing like them, will not help you identify who you are as a tap dancer.
During this journey of dance, I’ve had some soul searching to do myself. How can I express myself, show my personality, pay homage to my ancestors, feel good, and look good doing the dance? More importantly, why am I dancing? Who am I dancing for?
One thing I know for sure, I have a strong faith in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I’ve developed a deep relationship with my creator and that’s who I represent in my heart, mind, body and soul within. God blessed me with the gift of dancing to inspire, encourage, uplift and teach others how to gain talent and identity in it. The beauty of having a talent such as tap dance is that, no one owns it to say what you can and can not do, it is yours to do whatever you feel is best for you. It doesn’t matter what other people think about how you choose to express the art because they can not change who you are as a person. This of tap dance as a form of communication and the steps are words. With words, you can write books, novels, poems, letters, statements, ads, and the list goes on. Many of the great authors or publishers use words to tell stories, make or break laws, define cultures, and even change the world. This rule applies when it comes to tap dancing. You can take the dance where ever you want it go and not conform to what society wants you to be. When you really try to discover yourself as a person, the art will flow in a way that is unimaginable. For me, knowing that my faith is secure helped me be more confident in the way I choose to express my art.
It’s been a journey that I’m still discovering but what helps is resilience. You must not give up. No matter what your walk is, or your past, you have to remember that you will only discover who you really are by not giving up yourself and allowing anyone to strip you of your identity. As an individual, how can you express who you really are through the dance? Can you tell the world a story? Can you send a clear message? What is your position in the tap community? These are soul searching questions that have infinite answers. But the closer you are answering these questions, the closer you are at discovering your identity in Tap. Stand Out my friends.
Victoria Lorraine Jones