Interview with Jo Scanlan
Of Tap Attack
1. What is the name of your company?
2. How many years has your company existed?
3. Where is your company based?
Tap Attack is based in the UK and we have 4 centres nationwide (North, Midlands, South West and South East).
4. What are the age range of the dancers in your company?
We have different programs for the dancers, so our youngest are our Mini Associates who start at age 8 and then we go up to our Senior Associates and Company who are up to 26.
5. How often do your dancers meet to rehearse? Perform?
We have different groups that will train with us: All of our Associates come to us once a month, our Company meets on average every 2 weeks, but depending on what we are working towards can then be once a week and then for the whole weekend. We usually train on Sundays as our dancers come from all over the UK. This is easier as they are all at different points in their lives (some are students at school and college whilst some have also graduated and have jobs).
6. When you began, what was your primary motivation/goal/mission for starting a Tap dance company?
At the time of my training Europe was still quite quiet on the tap scene so I would travel to America to train. I feel very privelliged to have been able to take classes with some of the best tap dancers that have included Henry Le Tang, Bunny Briggs, Harold Cromer, Fayard Nicholas, Arthur Duncan, Robert Reed. The immediate thing that struck me from spending time with these incredible people was the feeling of being part of something very special. All were equally keen I needed to go back to England and share what I had learnt and from who. I continued to travel for many years and met more teachers who were a big influence including Barbara Duffy, Heather Cornell and Chloe Arnold. These women showed me that I could create something in my own country and have aims and dreams. During this time I wanted dancers in England to experience what I had and be part of a community. The initial goal was just to create workshops that tap dancers could attend and to take these around the UK as so many classes only took place in London. It became apparent quite quickly that some of the dancers wanted to receive more training in tap dance, so after seeing many successful youth companies in America, I hoped I could create similar. I have always loved to teach and share what I love and I would say my goal has always been that and to inspire another generation to continue.
7. As time has moved on, how has that mission evolved?
Things moved pretty quickly! The 1st year we had just 13 dancers in the company, by year 2 it grew to 25. A couple of years later I realized that as our dancers got better that it was hard for new dancers to successfully auditon and also as I wanted to keep the company fairly small that we were meeting too many dancers with potential and we couldn’t not train them. This lead to the introduction of the Associates program, a monthly training session with a strong focus on technique and musicality and with opportunity to perform with the company once a year. As more dancers began to travel to train with us, we then felt we should go to other areas. This has now resulted in the Associate program being in 4 different areas and with different age groups (Minis, Juniors, Mids and Seniors), taking us up to almost 300 tap dancers.
8. What has been the biggest challenge of starting a dance company?
Admin! No one ever mentioned that there would be so much admin to do! I love to spend time in the studio creating and teaching rather than being sat in my office but with so many dancers to look after and also so much additional work with workshops and performances for the dancers I do spend a lot of time with my laptop. Thankfully in the 5th year I found the most amazing admin lady to work with me and now I wonder how I even managed before. The other thing that sometimes is tricky is getting the dancers together. With them all living in so many areas of the UK it can be hard to add in additional rehearsals when we have performances coming up.
9. What has been your proudest moment in directing this dance company?
There have been a lot of moments over the years, we have performed at some incredible events and on tv but I think my personal proudest moment is the growth in dancers. What I never thought about was if a young dancer joined us that they would then eventually become an adult. I am so proud that so many of our dancers are now teaching and choreographing and working alongside me. At one audition we did I realized that the faculty was actually all former company members and that was a very proud moment. Seeing their passion and them passing their knowledge on to our dancers is very inspiring.
10. What words of advice would you offer to someone who is starting their own tap dance company?
Take help that is offered and don’t be too proud. I took along time to accept help as I wanted to do everything myself. There is only so much 1 person can do and by releasing some of the jobs will allow you to spend time on the part you actually love rather than things you aren’t so keen on.
11. Do you have any current projects the company is working on that you want to promote?
We are currently working towards our annual Celebration Dinner Dance, this is a chance for all of our dancers to perform together. Some of the dancers are also training to attend the World Tap Championships at the end of November. Our Company dancers are currently working on an immersive cinema version of Singin’ in the Rain to be performed at different venues in December, they are also working towards a gala which is being held in Italy in November.
12. Describe your company in one word!