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Celebrating Tap and Honoring Its Origins

Wed, 06/15/2022 - 17:46
Our Fabulous Variety Show's 2021 tap show
Michael O’Connor/Classy Camera

The fact that Our Fabulous Variety Show’s latest tap-dance production happens to coincide almost exactly with Juneteenth is not intentional, but it does, perhaps, make it a good time to talk about the origins of tap dancing.

“Tap is a Black American dance-art form,” said Anita Boyer, a co-founder, with Kasia Klimiuk, of Our Fabulous Variety Show. “It is not a melting pot of Irish step and West African tribal dance — that is a false narrative that is like a colonization of tap dance. It was born on plantations from humans who were enslaved by other humans. They had their instruments and drums taken away from them, so they started making rhythms with their feet on the ground.”

She herself learned much of the history from her teacher, Aaron Tolson, whose New Hampshire pre-professional company, Speaking in Taps, will take part in this weekend’s shows. Even as more conversations occur around social justice and cultural and racial understanding, he said he still encounters people who don’t understand the origins of tap dance.

“It’s important for people to not take it away from us, as things have been in the past,” Mr. Tolson said. “It starts with Black people in the fields of slavery. It was used as a form of communication. It has so much history.”

In “TAP: A Celebration of Rhythm,” the Our Fabulous Variety Show dancers will perform two shows, tomorrow and Saturday, at 6:30 p.m. at the Children’s Museum of the East End.

The production features more than 50 performers ranging in age from 2 to 86. (Yes, 86.) “I feel like tap is one of the most accessible dance-art forms in that even if you start when you’re in high school or as an adult, you can still be a part of things,” Ms. Boyer said.

Audiences can expect “joy, passion, fun — a pure celebration of tap dance,” she said.

Tickets are $20 for general admission and $40 for V.I.P. seats; students can get $10 general admission and $20 V.I.P. tickets. There will also be a 50/50 raffle as a fund-raiser for the production company’s upcoming trip to Walt Disney World. More information is available online at


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