Avalon Rathgeb, you are one of the "under 30 years old" tap dancers I see being invited the most at tap festivals in Europe and abroad! How did you get there?
It’s funny because I don't really know! It seemed like one day I was a student and then the next I was faculty. I guess that I took my training really seriously, I always felt like I was behind so I tried to work extra hard to be the best that I could be. With that in mind when I knew someone was over from the US or somebody that I found interesting to watch or learn from I made sure that I was at that event. I had the opportunity to study with many incredible people that were able to give me guidance with the development in my dance. I guess that’s where it started, organisers saw me at their events and invited me back to teach and perform.
I haven't had a chance to take classes with you but I heard the best from students taking them. What makes your teaching different and so interesting for students? Give us tips to teach better!
THIS IS HILARIOUS!!! Ok first of all I LOVE teaching, I'm not one of those people that teach because there isn't enough performance opportunity. Teaching is actually something that totally fulfils my soul. My mum had a dancing school that she ran from our house so I literally grew up in that environment. When I walk into a class and see people eager to learn from me its an amazing feeling. Being able to pass on knowledge that others have helped me gain, to say ‘Sam Weber explained the execution of a shuffle like this to me’, to see and hear the crazy pieces of choreography that you have only ever ‘understood’ in your head being translated on the wood- IT’S WILD- its your creation, your art there right in front of you. When people are hype to embody your ideas it’s special to watch. Tips- If you love it just show people, be truthful.
Based on your expertise as a travelling dancer and teacher, where do you see tap dance in the next few years?
Where do I see it? that’s hard. I hope everywhere! Honestly though I am excited, SUPER excited. Every time I reconnect with people I hear new idea’s, stories, workshops and festivals poping up, idea’s for shows, investors outside of the arts interested in the dance. Right now I think the art form is bubbling but i’m ready for it to explode with more job opportunities for young dancers, because more creative paths are being laid down. People want to tap dance and right now there are not that many ways people can survive by the dance, so people are creating there own work to help themselves but also to create work for those people around them.
What about the current situation of the art form?
Like I said its an exciting time, but there are a few things that we as young dancers need to remember and respect. Where the dance came from, how it was born and how it developed. The names of the men and women that made tap dance what it is able to be today. Honouring the traditions, respect and legacy. For me personally as a young dancer coming from the UK we didn't grow up dancing to Jazz music, so sitting in a swing pocket wasn't natural for me. I remember Michelle Dorrance telling me that if i didn't understand that musical feel within my dance I could never develop into the dancer I could be. That was a piece of advice I took very seriously and tried to honour that with every respect.
What do you wish for tap dance and tap dancers around the globe?
I always wished for more access to the art form but thats totally happening. With so much content and information for example from your website (House of Tap), Operation Tap- giving daily insights, Youtube featuring a ridiculous amount of footage, its right in front of us. I hope people continue to create and step out from their comfort zones. Its important that we continue to grow and make tap dance more accessible.
One thing I do wish for is that we can all dance on decent wooden floors! It just makes such a difference to our dancing and the understanding of tonal quality, feel, sound and articulation of of the movement, not to mention our physical wellbeing.
What are the tap videos you can watch over and over without getting tired of it? Who are your main influences from the past and present?
OHHHHH videos, how many can i list?
Miller Brothers and Lois:
Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Junior
Chuck Green dancing to A-Train
Jimmy Slyde at the White House
Michelle Dorrance dancing to Radiohead
Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards at STF
A new one from Derick Grant
Jimmy Slyde in Black and Blue
My main influences: (Present)
Michelle Dorrance, she was someone that took me under her wing from when I first started to tap dance seriously. She gave me loads of advice, assignments to work on every time I saw her, music to listen to and just advice in general. She's one of my closest friends and someone that I respect endlessly. Josh Hilberman, his knowledge and the way he continues to inspire me when he performs, his understanding of entertainment interlocked with a specific style of the dance intrigues me. Derick Grant, I love watching him perform, theres always something I am blown away by in his dance, he pushes boundaries. I’m also excited to be a student in his class. Sam Weber, the guys a genius! Nicholas Young, I think he's an incredible dancer, a kind person, a teacher that understand’s his students. His knowledge of music baffles me.
(Past) I love watching Chuck Green and Jimmy Slyde and of course Gregory Hines.
What are your next projects?
I want to develop my show ‘Fall Out’ a little more and then have the opportunity to perform it regularly. Hopefully setting new choreography with Ruben Sanchez to perform at Taptastic festival in 2017. Working on little ideas with different dancers and musicians to see what we can create. BUT what I would like to do is shut my self in a studio for a month and practise!