In September, hundreds of tap dancers gathered in Abbotsford, B.C. to audition for the Canadian National Tap Team. Calgarian Kirsty McGowan was one of 20 dancers selected to be a part of the team that will travel to Riesa, Germany for the IDO World Tap Dance Championships in December 2013.
McGowan grew up in Australia before her family moved to Dubai where she spent her teens. After being offered a scholarship by the University of Calgary she relocated to Calgary. She takes dance classes at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks. McGowan was one of two Albertans to make the national team. She tells us all about it.
Why do you like tap?
Your feet are the music. With other dance forms movement is paired with music. In tap you literally create everything yourself.
Was tap easy for you to learn?
Tap’s a thing that if you’re a dancer you either have it or you don’t. For me I kind of just clicked with tap. I was never as good at the other dance styles. Tap was always kind of my thing.
What is it like to dance in Dubai?
There’s not much of a dance community there. There were six of us and we were the first tap team in the Middle East. We went around and showed tap to different audiences in Dubai because it was a new thing there.
How was the national team audition structured?
We had to learn a few different routines that they taught to us quickly to see how fast we would pick up the routines. I went for training two weeks before and we had to learn the entire routine – which is five minutes – in one weekend. That is difficult because tap is really intricate. There are a lot of things to remember and they were testing that we could pick stuff up quickly.
How often does the team train together?
In Abbotsford, every third weekend but then we have Skype training every other weekend. This past weekend all the girls from B.C. had to go there, so they were all there practicing and then all of us that were out of province tuned in on Skype and practiced together that way.
What is your coach/instructor at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks like?
His name’s Shane. He does a very unique style of tapping. I don’t know if you’ve seen the “Cups” song that’s gone around the Internet where the tappers are doing it, it’s kind of a new style of tap that he kind of does rock music and stuff like that.
Walk us through an average class at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks?
You go in and then you do a warm up to a piece of music just following the teacher in a bunch of different steps, kind of warming up your feet. Then we tend to learn a piece of choreography to a new piece of music so he’ll slowly teach us that piece of choreography. Then generally we’ll do a sound/acapella piece so one side of the room will learn a certain routine, and we’ll learn another. We’ll do it without music in a canon. It tests your listening skills. We make really cool sounds that way. We end by doing the Shim Sham Shimmy, which is an old style dance. It’s basically like the anthem for tappers.
How are the World Tap Championships structured?
Every team every team will perform their formation. Then the judges will cut it down so they’ll say okay we want to see team Canada again, put you into the want to see again pile then that means you’ve made the next round. If you’re cut then you don’t perform again. If you make the next round then you perform again. Eventually they cut it down to six teams then they announce first, second and third. You stand on the podium and hear the national anthem play.
The IDO World Tap dance Championships will take place in Riesa, Germany from December 3 to 7, 2013. For more information visit ido-dance.com