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 2024 TAP FEST FACULTY

WENDI ISAACSON
TAP FEST DIRECTOR

DANTE LARA
RESIDENCY DIRECTOR AND FACULTY

 

Dante Lara is a California and New York based tap dancer, teacher and choreographer who continues to explode onto the new tap dancing scene. A graduate of Chapman University with a BA in Theatre Arts, Danté earned his SAG card at age seven, and has been acting professionally ever since. 

But his passion for tap dancing has kept him on the wood ever since he began studying the dance seriously at L.A.’s Colburn School with the late Alfred Desio (inventor of Taptronics). He then began classes at Debbie Allen Dance Academy with Jason Samuels Smith and Chloe Arnold, and soon joined professional tap company, LA Ironworks, under the direction of Steve Zee; Chloe Arnold’s New York based company, Apartment 33, “Heres 2 Lyfe” directed by Parris Mann and Rashida Khan, and Christo-pher Anthony Scott’s The Nitty Grittys.

As a soloist, Dante has performed at numerous clubs and hotels, and was a successful and well-known street performer in New York City, where he honed his craft collaborating with jazz musi-cians.

 

He considers his tap teaching style everything from taking stu-dents through sweat-breaking advanced rhythmic choreography, to enthusiastically coaching adults who have never picked up a pair of tap shoes. His goal as a performer and teacher is to spread the love and joy of this musical art form to everyone, and to give students technique and tap vocabulary that they can take and share in their own improvisations and choreography.

JASON JANAS
FACULTY

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Jason Janas is originally from New Jersey. He began his tap dance instruction under Ms. Deborah Mitchell and was the first charter member of the New Jersey Tap Ensemble. He then found a love for the dance and continued to learn and study the art form. He also trained and was a member of the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble under the direction of Gene Medler. His first professional company after high school was Tapestry Dance Company in Austin TX, under the direction of Acia Gray. He was a principal dancer there for 5 years. His hard work ethic began to take notice and Derick Grant invited Jason to be in his show “Imagine Tap!” which ran for 6 weeks in Chicago, and changed his life. His other show credits include "Souls of our Feet" where he worked with Fayard Nicholas, Jenni LeGon, Harold Cromer, and Arthur Duncan with Tapestry Dance Company, "Wonderland" with Sara Savelli and Ayodele Casel, and most recently co-choreographed and was featured in "Tap Stars" with Rasta Thomas. In addition to directing and producing his own company Co.MMIT, Jason has taught at tap festivals in New Jersey, Chicago, New York, L.A., Charlotte, Austin, San Antonio, Vancouver, Croatia, Germany, Zurich, Curitiba (Brazil), Moscow, and Barcelona! Jason is currently the resident tap instructor for Radix Dance Convention. Jason and his wife, Bianca, own a dance school, The Foundation House LLC, located in Michigan.

KAREN CALLOWAY WILLIAMS
FACULTY

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KAREN CALLAWAY WILLIAMS is known for being both the first African American female tap dancer and dance captain in RIVERDANCE - THE SHOW and the only African American female tap dancer and dance captain in RIVERDANCE - ON BROADWAY. Other Broadway credits include the Tony Award nominated Duke Ellington musical PLAY ON. She is currently featured on the cover of Flow Magazine and in the wonderful current documentary BEEN RICH ALL MY LIFE the story of the Silver Belle, a group of Chorus Girls from the 1930's and 1940's. She is currently a Second-Generation Silver Belle and the Artistic Director of this group.

 

     Karen has toured extensively performing in 31 States and 13 countries having recently returned from a two and a half month run of HINTON BATTLE'S AMERICAN VARIETY BANG in Osaka, Japan. She has also traveled to Zurich Switzerland for the fourth time as instructor for the Zurich Tap Festival, The United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Al Ain) with the Duke Ellington Big Band, Armenia, and Romania with TAP CITY ON TOUR through the Unites States Embassy, the ALL THAT TAP TAIPEI festival in Taiwan, on Canadian soil with TAP GIANTS and Tap TEL AVIV and in Beijing, China, Canada, and North America with the RIVERDANCE Flying Squad and RIVERDANCE, Boyne Company.

 

     Karen is mentioned several times in the Tap History book TAP DANCING AMERICA by Constance Valis Hill, was featured in a Black History edition of ESSENCE Magazine, which highlighted four female African American tap artists and on the recording of Music from The Sacred Concerts Edward Kennedy Ellington as performed by the Princeton University Concert Jazz Ensemble as the Tap Dancer in David Danced Before the Lord a role not commonly performed by a female dancer. She will reprise this role in April 2015. She was also interviewed on BOJANGLES THE LEGACY for SHOWTIME as well as in a special guest spot on "SESAME STREET". A graduate of Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia, she is also an alum of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center (AAADC) in New York.

 

      In 2013, Karen was a Flo-Bert Honoree and received the Florence Mills Award and will be awarded in July 2015 with the Hoofers Award from the American Tap Dance Federation. DANCE MAGAZINE heralded her as "a graceful dream with taps as happy as a song" and the New York Times called her “a gifted traditionalist with laughing eyes.”

 

     Karen has been featured as a tap solo artist with the Baltimore and New Jersey Symphony Orchestras on several occasions performing several movements from the iconic "MORTON GOULD'S TAP DANCE CONCERTO.” She was also a featured soloist for the Detroit and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras for their YULETIDE CELEBRATIONS, as well as the BSO HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR and in ALL THAT JAZZ with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.  In addition, she was a soloist and special guest choreographer for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra as well as a special guest solo artist in AN INVITATION TO THE DANCE with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

 

     Three memorable performances were held at THE HOLE IN THE WALL GANG CAMP for Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, the COTTON CLUB in Harlem with Debbi Sledge of Sister Sledge and her sisters and at the APOLLO THEATRE with the original Silver Belles for President Bill Clinton.

 

Karen often assists Mercedes Ellington having been a member of  DancEllington Dance Company under the direction of Mercedes Ellington. Karen danced with the Duke Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington and later as a soloist for Paul Ellington nationally and internationally. She was also in Lincoln Center's Reel to Real Series, including YANKEE DOODLE BOYS, THE BROTHERHOOD OF TAP and STORY T'ELLINGTON.

 

     In addition to performing, Ms. Williams has established herself as a prominent tap instructor teaching statewide on a weekly basis for more than 40 years. Her teaching history includes Spelman College, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Poly-Ethnic Preparatory Country Day School, the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan, The New Jersey Performing Arts Center Dance Academy, Art Stone's Dance Olympus, the New York City Dance Alliance, national and international tap festivals, dance camps, master classes and enrichment programs. When not on Broadway, Karen is a soloist and was the first Dance Captain and charter member of the NEW JERSEY TAP ENSEMBLE, having recently celebrated almost 30 years with the company, performing in their high energy shows A STOP ON THE A-TRAIN, THE NEXT STEP, RHYTHM IS OUR BUSINESS, BY GEORGE IT’S GERSHWIN and PASS IT ON. She also gives lecturer/demonstrations and educational assembly programs in elementary, middle, and high schools. 

 

     Karen is the Producer of HOOFERS FOR HOPE and Rhythms for Ruby (the show). She is the author of Gabriella’s Tap Shoes (Book 1) Gabriella and the Tap Dance Floor (Book 2) and Rhythms for Ruby (Book 4) (in print and audio book). Karen is currently working on her forth book for children “Gabriella the Girl who lost her Shuffle (Book 3 in order). All books are available on Amazon.com. 

JUSTIN BOCCITTO
FACULTY

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Justin Boccitto (Common Ground) is an international tap dance artist and award-winning choreographer. He has appeared as a coach on MTV’s “Made” and performed at Tap City (honoring Bettye Morrow), Tap Extravaganza, The NJ Tap Ensemble (honoring Marvin Hamlisch), the historic Ryman Auditorium and The Big Apple Tap Festival (honoring Randy Skinner). Justin is currently on faculty at Broadway Dance Center and Marymount Manhattan College and taught at The Juilliard School and Steps on Broadway. His students have included Lady Gaga, Sophia Anne Caruso (Beetlejuice, NBC’sSound of Music), and Sean Fosse (grandson of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon). He currently tours the country with Dani Champagne conducting master classes through his project, Common Ground, co-created by Germaine Salsberg.www.justinboccitto.comwww.commongroundtap.com, @commongroundtap

CHANTE STUTZNEGGER
FACULTY

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Chante Sinclair Stutznegger started teaching dance at the age of 16 and has loved it ever since. She completed her dance training at various studios in Utah as well as the Broadway Dance Center in New York, NY. She loves all dance styles but specializes in tap and hip-hop. In 2005, Chante won a gold medal at the Junior Olympics in Power Tap and has taken home many national awards in Power tap and Rhythmic tap. She is currently the Choreographer for Nauvoo Productions, choreographing all of the shows in Nauvoo, IL for the LDS church. She is also the choreographer for Heritage Schools, The Fine Arts director at Maple Lake Academy and dance faculty at Brigham Young University. Chante loves to share her passion for dance with others and enjoys every moment of teaching. She and her sister and their organization "Let's Talk Sis" are speakers and consultants.

COLLEEN WEST
FACULTY

Colleen West is a recently retired full-time Associate Professor of Dance at Brigham Young University, where she taught 22 different dance courses and developed 9 dance courses for the dance department. She is the director of "Foot Poetry Tap Dance Ensemble" and author of the book "Tap Dance Fundamentals for Higher Education. She was the director of the BYU Tap Dance program for 25 years. She choreographed 29 tap dance works for major concerts at BYU including World of Dance, Homecoming Spectacular, Christmas Around the World, and Contemporary Dance Theatre Concert. She choreographed tap dance works for International Folk Dance Ensemble, Contemporary Dance Theater, and BYU Ballroom Dance Company. These tap dance works have been performed in 36 countries. Colleen choreographed 78 technique based tap dances for the tap dance classes at BYU (beginning, intermediate, and advanced level.) She was the Director of the BYU Rhythm Tap Summer Workshop 2003-2009.

Colleen has co-produced the footwork concert "Soundsation! An Evening of Dynamic Percussive Footwork" with Greg Tucker since 2009-present. She co-organized and produced a concert for National Tap Dance Day at SLC Rose Wagner Theater: "Footwork: And Evening of Tap Dance."

Colleen participated in 15 professional tap dance workshops in NYC, LA, and Colorado, receiving training from Steve Condos, Honi Coles, Eddie Brown, Linda Sohl-Ellison, Dianne Walker, Sam Weber, Savion Glover, Chloe Arnold, Brenda Buffalino, Lynn Dally, Paul Kennedy, Heather Cornell, LaVaughn Robinson, Van Porter, Fred Stickler, Pauline Hagino, Anita Feldman, Barbara Duffy, Derek Grant, Jeannie Hill, Jason Samuels Smith, Jeffrey Williams, Olivia Rosenkrantz, Germain Ingram, Terry Brock, Kathie Kramer, Steps Ahead Professional Trio.

ACIA GRAY
FACULTY

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As a musician, soloist, choreographer and master teacher of the indigenous American art form of jazz tap dance, Ms. Gray has toured extensively across the U.S. and abroad as a tap dancer and in 1989 co-founded Tapestry Dance Company in Austin, TX with Deirdre Strand and currently serves as Producing Artistic Director & Artistic Director of The Soul 2 Sole International Tap Festival. 

 

A graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts/NYC, Ms. Gray has shared the stage with legends of the form including Donald O’Connor, Fayard Nicholas, Arthur Duncan, Savion Glover, Jimmy Slyde, Sarah Petronio, Dianne Walker and many others in such productions as The Great Tap Reunion, Tap Do/Wop, Just Friends, Masters of Tap, Chicago on Tap and Women in Tap at UCLA. She was chosen to work with legend Charles ‘Honi’ Coles in America’s first creative residency for tap at The Colorado Dance Festival in 1989 and again with Jimmy Slyde in 1990.

 

She served on the Steering Committee of The National Tap Plan of The International Tap Association and served as its director from 2008-2018. She has also danced, choreographed and taught for numerous academic institutions and festivals around the world including courses at UT Austin in tap pedagogy. Her book The Souls of Your Feet – A Tap Dance Guide for Rhythm Explorers has been translated in the Czech Republic and China and debuted as an Amazon.com Bestseller in its category in 1998.

 

Her numerous awards include the “Hoofer Award” by The New York City Tap Festival, nominated for a Princess Grace Award in the early 1990's and honored at the 2018 DanceUSA Conference among numerous tap festival honors. Ms. Gray has received numerous "Best Of" awards by the Critics Table in Austin and her work The Souls of Our Feet - A Celebration of American Tap Dance was chosen as an NEA American Masterpiece production and toured throughout the US, Canada, and China from 2009-2012. She can also be seen in the documentaries Honi Coles: The Class Act of Tap,  Gotta Move - Women In Tap, Tap or Die, Thinking on Their Feet - Women of the Tap Renaissance and Passing it Forward produced by PBS. 

 

Ms. Gray is also proud to be a 2019 Austin Creative Alliance Honoree  and a current member of the Austin Arts Commission. 

DANI CHAMPAGNE

FACULTY

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Dani Champagne (Common Ground) is a NYC based performer, instructor and award-winning choreographer. She has appeared with Demi Remick & Dancers, toured the east coast with DrumatiX Dance Company and was a company member of The Boston Tap Company. Her tap company, ACM Collective, is currently an artist-in-residence at the American Tap Dance Foundation and has performed at Rhythm in Motion (Symphony Space), Emerging Choreographer Series (LaGuardia Performing Arts Center) and The Sharon Playhouse. Dani has worked and trained closely with tap dance artists, Dianne Walker and Derick Grant. She is currently on faculty at Common Ground and serves as the Workshop Coordinator, traveling the country instructing masterclasses with Justin Boccitto. She is also a guest faculty member at Broadway Dance Center and Mark Morris Dance. www.danichampagne.comcommongroundtap.com, @commongroundtap

PREVIOUS YEAR'S FACULTY

TED LOUIS LEVY
COLLEEN WEST: 2023 FESTIVAL HONOREE
RUSTY FRANK
SAM WEBER
JOSH NIXON
GERSON LANZA
DIANNE WALKER
LYNNETTE MCINTIRE
JENEFER MILLER
VICTORIA JONES
MICHELLE KELLY
EDDIE HOYT
EDDY KOVAC
MEGAN NELSON
MARY WALL
BECKY FULLINGTON
TONY COPPOLA
ALEKSANDR OSTANIN

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STAR DIXON
 

Star Dixon is an assistant director, choreographer, and original principal dancer of world renowned tap company, MADD Rhythms. She has taught and performed at the most distinguished tap festivals in the country including The L.A. Tap Fest, DC Tap Fest, RIFF Dallas, Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Rhythm World, and MADD Rhythms own Chicago Tap Summit. She’s performed internationally in Poland, Japan, and Brazil to name a few. Performance venues include Jacob’s Pillow, Kennedy Center, and the Lincoln Center. Outside of MADD Rhythms, she's performed as a guest with such companies as Michelle Dorrance's Dorrance Dance and Savion Glover’s All Funk’d Up. Most recent awards include 3arts Make a Wave 2019, Chicago Dance Makers Forum lab artist 2022, Chicago Reader Best Dancer 2021 and Best Choreographer 2022. 

JENNE VERMES

Jenne Vermes is a professional tap dancer and choreographer from Jacksonville, FL. She has danced for over 35 years, and has worked as a dance instructor for nearly 20 years. She received high quality foundations of dance training at both conservatory and competitive levels in south Florida. She studied music for her B.A. and earned two Master's degrees in education at Florida State University. Currently she is a tap instructor at Florida School of the Arts, a 2-year arts college in Palatka, Florida) and several studios in the Northeast Florida area. 


Jenne is the Artistic Director and Dance Captain of two professional tap dance companies: Noise Complaint - Tap Dance Theatre and Rhythm Theory Tap Ensemble, both currently performing and touring at festivals and large pop-culture events across the US.  


From 2010-2012 and from 2015 to the present she has toured as a dancer/singer for the internationally acclaimed band, The Crüxshadows, which traveled across Europe, the Caribbean and North America. Currently she joins them as a back-up dancer for their US-based shows. From 2014-2018 she was a member and Dance Captain of the "#Taplife" Tap Dance Company based in New York City. 

SAM WEBER

Sam Weber is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed performing artist, master teacher and choreographer who regularly appears throughout the world.   A protege of Stan Kahn in San Francisco, Sam Weber has appeared with such tap legends as Charles "Honi" Coles, Steve Condos, Jimmy Slyde, Gregory Hines and the Nicholas Brothers.  Sam's versatility has led him to performances in musical theater and television, where he has worked with such stars as Burt Lancaster, Bob Hope, Andy Williams, Pat Boone and Sara Vaughn.  Sam co-starred in the award-winning German short film "Zwei Im Frack," directed by Christian Stahl in September, 2000.  Sam has also performed with the San Francisco Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Peninsula Ballet Theatre and Smuin Ballets/SF.  Sam Weber was frequently seen on PBS's "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" television show and is featured in the documentary "Juba! Masters of Percussive Dance" on Public Television. Sam is one of the few tap dancers in the world currently performing Morton Gould's "Tap Dance Concerto" and was the first tap dancer to receive a "Bessie" award, presented in New York City in 1993 in recognition of outstanding creative achievement.  In addition to his solo tap dancing career, Sam has toured internationally since 1986 as a principal dancer and choreographer with the Jazz Tap Ensemble.  


Sam Weber has performed and taught at tap dance workshops and festivals worldwide.  These have included the Chicago Human Rhythm Project as well as tap festivals in Boulder, CO, Portland, OR, St. Louis, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Vancouver, B.C., Atlanta, Houston, Austin, Boston, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Prague, Kiev, Heidelberg, Freiburg, Wuerzburg, Cologne, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin, Duesseldorf, Zurich, Helsinki, Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Rio De Janeiro, San Antonio, TX, Gainesville, FL and the San Francisco Tap Festival. Sam has taught in the dance departments of UCLA, Cal State University, L.A., Long Beach City College, Cal State Fullerton and San Francisco State University.

 

 Sam Weber frequently performs the work of German composer/violinist/tap dancer Andreas Daenel.  The two dancers have performed Daenel's compositions for tap dancers and orchestra "Kontralog" and "SignADiapunktur," which premiered in the U.S. with the San Francisco Bay Area's Peninsula Symphony Orchestra in 2005.  


Sam is the recipient of several awards, including the "Hoofer Award," from the American Tap Dance Foundation, the "Legacy Award," from San Antonio's "Third Coast Rhythm Project," the "Giant Steps" award for his lifelong contribution to the development of tap dance in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he has also received the prestigious "Juba" award from the Chicago Human Rhythm Project in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the art of tap dance. He is on NY Times critic Brian Seibert's list of the 25 most important tap dancers of the 20th century. In July of 2021, Sam recieved the Legacy Award from the Orange County Tap Festival. 

BRENDAN KELLAM

Brendan Kellam, Arizona native, has been trained in jazz, ballet, modern, hip hop, and ballroom; but his heart lies with tap. Brendan is a professional tap dancer who has traveled all over the U.S. to study with many masters, including Jason Samuels Smith, Nico Rubio, Aleksandr Ostanin, Jason Janas, Lady Di'Walker, Sarah Reich and the late Professor Robert L. Reed. 

Brendan has been on faculty for Wing It tap intensive, Phoenix Tap Fest, and Motor City Tap Fest. He has also been seen performing with the Phoenix-based tap company, Tap 24.7 since 2012.

At age 14, Brendan began his journey as a choreographer, and his work has been selected to perform in the Big Apple Tap Festival in New York City, and the Motor City Tap Festival  in Detroit. He currently choreographs for multiple studios across the country, and his work can be seen at many competitions, awarded numerous high accolades. Most recently, Brendan was seen competing at the World Tap Championships in Riesa, Germany, where his choreography placed 4th in the world.

Brendan graduated from the University of Arizona as a dance major/Music Production Minor and is the director of DXX Company.

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