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Tap Dancing Around

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Dear Reader,

We are writing as the producers of the Chicago on Tap Festival to be held at Navy Pier's Skyline Stage July 22-24. In Lewis Lazare's July 8 Culture Club column there were a number of points raised by us during interviews with Mr. Lazare that somehow failed to make the article.

The article suggests that Chicago on Tap is not including a sufficient number of local dancers and that the fees paid to artists will all be "going back to New York." This issue was brought to Mr. Lazare's attention by Lane Alexander and Kelly Michaels, two Chicago artists who were scheduled to participate in the Chicago on Tap Festival but declined due to their unwillingness to be featured in a special evening of Chicago tap talent. In fact, of the 12 featured dancers, two are currently living in Chicago, and a third, Ted Levy, grew up in Chicago but found it necessary to move to New York to earn a living. In other words, one quarter of the dancers involved with Chicago on Tap are Chicagoans or have a strong Chicago connection. For a world-class festival we think that's a pretty good ratio.

It was also pointed out to Mr. Lazare that a successful debut festival would do more to support local dancers by raising the profile of the medium and increasing the dance audience than a poorly attended event. The unfortunate (for Chicago) truth is that the majority of great rhythm tap dancers live and work outside of our city--and those are the artists who sell tickets.

Perhaps the ultimate irony is that in the same issue of the Reader is an ad for a tap festival Lane Alexander scheduled subsequent to the planning of Chicago on Tap with its list of artists. The headliners of the other festival are all from out of town and Chicago dancers make up less than half of the lineup.

In spite of the apparent bad feelings, we wish the other festival nothing but success. As producers of Chicago on Tap, we would like nothing more than to see this important and exciting dance tradition get the attention it so greatly deserves--and in the process, help inspire a generation of Chicago-based rhythm tap dancers.

Jim Hirsch

Executive Director

Old Town School of Folk Music

Julie Simpson

Executive Director

Dance Center of Columbia College

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