Arts & Culture News

Tap Dance Your Way Through May With the 'Shim, Sham, Shimmy'

Have you ever wanted to be a person who's really good at parties? You know those people. They have arsenals of songs they can play on the piano, endless jokes to tell, and they know how to make an impressive cocktails. Everybody likes those people and they never have to hide in the kitchen by the food, which is where you'll find me when I start to feel awkward.

If you're looking to replenish your storehouse of party tricks, sources of ours passed along a tip. The month of May contains the too often ignored National Tap Dance Day and local tap dance aficionado Katelyn Harris wants to teach dancers of all levels the "Shim, Sham, Shimmy" - often considered the national anthem of tap dance. And if you're interested she'll teach you a thing or two about the history of tap dance in America.

"Tap dance is an original American art form with a controversial history. You really have to think of it as one of our folk dances," she says, over a cup of coffee in her home studio. "But like other forms of dance it's also an international language. You don't need to words to dance along to the 'Shim, Sham, Shimmy.'"

Harris hosts several weekend workshops to teach anyone with a pair of tap shoes (and $15) the three most popular tap dance numbers. In addition to the "Shim, Sham," classes will also be offered in the Copacetics' "B.S. Chorus" and the "Chair Dance." The workshops all lead up to National Tap Dance Day on May 25.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the official holiday, an honor bestowed upon the birthday of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (1878-1949), whose influence over the art form and popular culture is still studied today. Not only did he bring the dance out of its flat-footed style onto its toes, he is also recognized for his trailblazing performances in Hollywood. The small action of holding the hand of young Shirley Temple was the first time a black hand held a white one on screen. He also coined the phrase, "Everything's Copasetic," as a way of saying "it's cool."

So if you're looking for something a little bit more copasetic to bring with you to a cocktail party, maybe you should learn the "Shim, Sham, Shimmy" this May. Of course, you'll have to keep your tap shoes in your purse at all times. And to celebrate Robinson's birthday in style, you can head to Arts Fifth Avenue's National Tap Dance Day block party, at 8 p.m. May 25, where I have a feeling you'll be able to use your newly acquired choreography.

Dates, times and prices of Harris' classes are available on her Web site. Now, get tapping, baby.

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Lauren Smart
Contact: Lauren Smart