Finals are a stressful time on campus for every college student. If you are looking for a reason to take a study break or are enthusiastic about dance, Tappy Holidays promises to ease your worries with unique tap pieces and baked goods. This event from Vassar On Tap will be taking place in the Student’s Building at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9.
Vassar On Tap is the College’s largest dance group, with almost 50 members performing at the upcoming event. Co-president Emma Butensky ’18 credits this achievement to heavily promoting the club to first years last fall by luring them in with cookies and the promise of a good time. Word of mouth from students raving about the organization has led to Vassar On Tap to have their largest group of student to date.
In addition, the organization has classes for four different levels: beginner, intermediate 1, intermediate 2 and advanced. There is a place for anyone who wants to tap dance, whether they have been doing it their whole life or have never danced before.
This is what beckoned sophomore Wenjie Xie into tap her first year. She stated, “Coming from a background in which I’ve been dancing on and off for almost a decade, I realized that while I’ve experimented with almost every dance style, from jazz and ballet to belly dancing and hip hop, I’d never tried tap before! So of course, given the opportunity to learn tap as a beginner in a college dance org and [with]free tap shoes provided by said org, I had absolutely no excuse not to try it out.”
While the tap shoes are definitely a perk, Xie explained that the fantastic group of people make it worth sticking to it. She continued, “I got to bond with fabulous people during a very overwhelming time, my first month at college. Vassar On Tap has improved my sense of rhythm, given me invaluable friendships and acquire the means to retaliate and irritate my downstairs neighbors!”
Tyler Boyle ’19 had a differing experience coming into Vassar On Tap. Put into tap shoes at age three by his mother, Boyle has been passionate about tap dancing for as long as he can remember. He was eager to join the organization once he found out it existed. Boyle explained, “I was super pumped when I saw that Vassar On Tap was a thing. I saw them perform when I was a prospective student during Focus Weekend, and I knew that I wanted to try it.”
“I came in as a first year,” Boyle continued, “and thought that it would be super easy because of my 16 years of experience. Then I saw Butensky tap, and I was blown away. Vassar On Tap has challenged me while also allowing me to grow as a dancer and creating new friendships along the way. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Butensky is psyched for the Vassar community to see the hard work that everyone has put into the show and for those who have never performed before to be able to show what they have learned in just three months. Co-President with Megan Jackson ’18, Butensky has been tap dancing since she was seven years old. She is passionate about the genre because it is generally an underappreciated art form that people don’t tap, tap, tap into enough.
She points out, “There’s like two colleges in the U.S. that have tap dance programs. They all have ballet, modern and all the white European dance forms, but they don’t have tap dance or other cultural dance options. Tap dance was created by Irish and English immigrants and African slaves. A lot of people do not know about tap dance, and some might even presume that it’s dead.”
Butensky continued, “Vassar On Tap continues to appreciate and promote this art form to the people around us. The people in this club may not dedicate their entire lives to tap dancing, but they dedicate a whole lot of time to it. You’ll get to see how passionate they are about it.”
Tappy Holidays will feature live performances of Vassar’s Jazz Band, while also having 48 performers for nine different pieces, which have been choreographed by either professionals or are originally choreographed by students in the club. As Boyle sums up, “It’s a nice halfhour break from dying,” alluding to the stress that many students on campus feel as finals approach.
You can feel the passion radiating out of those in the club as they excitedly discuss Tappy Holidays or talk about their first time attending a class. Each member of Vassar On Tap is eager to showcase what they have been working on for the semester to their friends that may not understand what tap dancing really entails. Butensky explains, “There’s something about learning how to do something physical and having the reward of accomplishing it. The fact that even someone who has just been tap dancing for a semester can perform an entire dance is really rewarding for people, and also people seem to really like making sounds with their feet.”
Tappy Holidays is coming together to be a wonderful celebration of tap dancing with accompanying jazz music and home-baked goods. Reflecting on the timing of the event, Xie said, “We all know that no one really starts cramming for exams until a day or two before, so why not take a short break from pretending to study to enjoy free food and watch a super festive, fun, tappy performance. As a bonus, for anyone that’s a fan of ‘Where’s Waldo,’ come and try to spot the person who’s constantly tripping and/or face-planting throughout the show (that would be yours truly)! If you’re a fan of happy feet, your tap friends and free food, you should come watch us tap that.”