The Knock on Wood Tap Studio in downtown Takoma Park has redefined tap dancing for more than two decades, and the studio’s resident ensembles will share their talents in a free performance at the Takoma Park Community Center on April 26.

Percussion Discussion includes three groups at different age and experience levels. Capitol Tap features youth tap dancers, Monumental Tap includes intermediate-level adult dancers, and District Tap highlights advanced adult performers. Each ensemble has their own repertoire, and they will collaborate in an intergenerational performance.

This event in the Takoma Park Arts series is free, and no tickets or reservations are required. Limited parking is available at the Takoma Park police station and the adjoining Piney Branch Elementary School parking lot.

Lisa Swenton-Eppard founded Capitol Tap in 2010, followed by District Tap and Monumental Tap. She grew up in her mother’s dance studio in southern Maryland where she learned to tap dance at an early age and started teaching when she was 15 years old.

“Tap was the one genre that spoke to me the most, and it’s been a mainstay in my life,” she said. “I’m now in my 38th year as a tap dance educator, not just for my own companies but also for other dance studios in the area.”

Percussion Discussion incorporates both historical and contemporary tap dance and has performed at the Kennedy Center, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Wolf Trap, and other venues.

“My dancers talk about the sense of connection and community they feel when creating music and dance together,” Swenton-Eppard said. “Performing is a form of communication and finding common ground with others through a range of emotions.”

The origins of tap dance are rooted in the Stono Rebellion in South Carolina in 1739 where enslaved Africans used weapons and drums in an unsuccessful uprising that led to a law being passed a year later that prohibited enslaved people from playing musical instruments.  This is believed to be the precursor that moved rhythmic patterns of West African step dances from the drum solely to the body, with tap dance evolving over centuries from various cultural influences.

Tap dance took off in the mid-1800s at dance competitions and minstrel shows, and then later in nightclubs, musicals, and vaudeville shows. Metal taps on the bottom of shoes didn’t appear until the early 1900s, replacing wooden-soled shoes and other footwear.

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson gained worldwide fame for his tap dancing in the early 1900s despite discrimination against Black performers. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly helped develop the Broadway style of tap featured in musicals such as 42nd Street and Anything Goes. Tap dancing reemerged in the 1980s with new dance styles fueled by funk and hip hop and has continued to grow in popularity.

This performance is part of the City of Takoma Park’s Takoma Park Arts series, which includes free concerts, theater, dance, art exhibitions, and film screenings at the Takoma Park Community Center. You can sign up for our e-newsletter to get more info about all of our upcoming events.

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