- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 6, 2001

Fans of tap — the special American percussive form of dance — will find two groups making their debuts at the Tap Dance Festival 2001 at Dance Place in Northeast today and tomorrow.

One is a group of local college students brought together under the label Tappening by teacher Heidi Schultz. Another is DC ARTistry Tap and Drum, composed of teen-agers and adults, which combines traditional tap-dancing with drums.

Nancy Newell, the latter's executive director, believes Washington is one of the few places where tap and drums are fused this way.

"It makes sense, because both are percussive art forms," says Ms. Newell, who also leads DC TAPestry, an adult group. Artis Mooney is artistic director of both ARTistry and TAPestry.

Ms. Newell is a longtime teacher of dance who worked at the Joy of Motion Dance Center for 15 years. She founded the DC Dance Collective studio at 4908 Wisconsin Ave. NW in June 1999. It is home to six resident dance companies employing 39 teachers. (TAPestry and ARTistry are among them.) The groups attract nearly 500 students of all ages who come to learn various dance styles, including ballet and African dance.

Tappening grew out of a tap class that Ms. Schultz teaches as part of the performing arts program at American University. She also is associated with Joy of Motion, which is in Northwest.

The Collective, which began as something of an experiment in Ms. Newell's mind, is an eclectic assembly of activities. Students involved in dance and physical education at Georgetown Day School use it for aerobics; a break-dance company also is in residence. Renowned solo dancer Savion Glover, as guest artist, conducted a workshop there for 74 students in March.

"This is the beginning of the 21st century. Last year, when I turned 50, it seemed to make sense to try this," Ms. Newell says. "My plan is to live in a world of 'yes.' I know entrepreneur rhymes with manure — don't quote me — but I saw a building open up and made the big leap."

She is reluctant to say tap has been enjoying a renaissance of late. But it has "changed in a major way," Ms. Newell says, having gone beyond more traditional styles in the 1930s and its appearance in the movie musicals of the early 1950s.

"It had a hiatus in the 1970s and now has changed in a major way, where it encompasses noise and funk. It opened up to different forms of expression so that it now is more urban. The focus is toward sound and percussive music as opposed to big musical numbers.

"Rhythm exists everywhere. With tap, you start to pull that element back into your life," she says, explaining its current popularity.

"The more people are in tap shoes, the happier I am. Tap is historically the melting pot in America of Irish step and African dance. In the past 10 or 15 years, it has taken on a different role in the dance world. Before it was like the bastard child of dance. People like Gregory Hines helped make audiences aware of it as a legitimate art form."

Those unable to attend this weekend's festival can look ahead to Tap Fest, which Ms. Newell holds in March, when students from different local dance schools come together "to celebrate and see what is going on in the entire area."

Besides the above groups, the festival will feature Step Aside, Taps & Company and Tappers With Attitude. The performance tomorrow is part of the Dance Place Family Series, which offers two free children's tickets for each paying adult.WHAT: Tap Dance Festival 2001WHERE: Dance Place, 3225 Eighth St. NEWHEN: 8 p.m. today and 4 p.m. tomorrowTICKETS: $15 general admission; $12 in advance for members, students, seniors and artists; $5 for children and teens 17 and youngerPHONE: 202/269-1600

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