“I’d like to dance and tap my feet, but I can’t keep in rhythm,” sings the Dwarves in the Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Unlike the Seven Dwarves, the tap master class taught by Ellen Keane did “keep in rhythm”, tapping their feet to steady counting and executing various combinations with precision.
Earlier this month, Ellen Keane, tap artist and founder of Keane Sense of Rhythm, came to Sterling Dance in Two Harbors to teach a tap master class. A mentor of Renee Moe, Sterling Dance’s founder and artistic director, Keane enjoys sharing the art of dance.
Over twenty-five years ago, Keane contacted Moe when Moe was teaching at the Grand Marais Art Colony. Keane was interested in teaching a master class while she was in the area for skiing. Since then, Keane and Moe have developed a great friendship and artistic connection.
Ellen Keane has devoted her life to teaching tap dance and “preserving the choreography of the tap legends.” She has taught at the University of Minnesota and performed internationally. Keane has also presented multiple tap festivals in the Twin Cities, bringing in highly talented tap instructors. Moe says, “She believes in the power of giving our students the opportunity to study with many teachers to learn the diverse styles of dance…just as I do.”
The class covered the rudiments of tap dancing, improvisation exercises, and choreography written by various professional tap dancers. This choreography included a piece called “Laura”, choreographed by Buster Brown, a member of the Copasetics. Other choreographers studied were Fred Strickler, a founding member of Jazz Tap Ensemble, Lynn Dalley, and Broadway choreography by Dr. Henry LaTang.
Teen student Aili Gischia said about the class, “What I really appreciated about Ellen’s teaching was that she would tell us more about the history of tap dance, the choreographers, and where the art form came from, instead of just teaching us the tap phrases. We also did a lot of improvisation, which pushed me out of my comfort zone a little bit, but was still really fun!”
Another teen student, Brie Svendsen, said, “I’ve worked with Ellen many times and I think she’s an amazing teacher. I think Miss Renee had a great idea bringing her up here to teach. She’s so fun and I always learn so much from her class.”
Eight-year-old Anna Cavallin said that “it was fun to have a guest teacher and she showed us different tap moves.” Her sister, five-year old Ella, said “the fun part was dancing to the zoo song.”
Adult student Martina Mellang relates how, “Renee Moe has been my dance teacher since I was eight years old. Now in my mid-30s, I’m delighted when I get to tap dance with her.
Renee has an amazing connection to the tap community. She has welcomed Ellen up the Shore many times. Ellen just recently visited Two Harbors for a 2-day master tap class. Ellen teaches not just fun and technical tap rudiments, but also tap history. She has some wild stories. We all joke that dance will keep us young!”
Ellen Keane believes that the “gift of dance training should be accessible to everyone.” Each year, she brings that accessibility to Two Harbors through her annual master class. “It is always a joy to work with [Renee Moe’s] dancers and see them grow year after year,” Keane says.