Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

New student club gets students footloose

Tap dancing students

Sophomores Caitlin Barrett and Janelle Ludowise started DU's tap dancing club. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Sophomores Caitlin Barrett and Janelle Ludowise were dancers without a stage. They came to DU with a love of dance and experience to back it up, but didn’t have a place to perform around campus.

“I first began tap dancing when I was five years old but I didn’t really concentrate on it until I was 8,” says Ludowise, an English major from San Jose, Calif. “After that, I became more passionate about tap dancing and have kept at it ever since. When I got to DU, I really wanted to continue with tap because it was something I felt so strongly about and loved so much, but I couldn’t find any tap dance opportunities on or off campus.”

So they put their best foot forward — literally. They began DU Tappers, a club for students with or without tap dancing experience. Currently, there are eight active members.
The club, which held its first meeting in September, mostly consists of experienced tappers, but the level of experience varies.

“We have members that have been tapping for years up until now and others that haven’t put on tap shoes in years,” Ludowise says. “We also have members that have never tap danced in their lives.”

Their initial goal was that experienced tappers would teach the non-experienced tappers, says Barrett, an anthropology major from Durango, Colo. Their cumulative goal is to showcase student-choreographed work to the campus community by the year’s end.

“Tapping by yourself is just not the same as tapping with a group,” Ludowise says, noting that tap is all about the sounds.

“Each step contains a certain amount of sounds. A shuffle — which is one of the basic sounds a tapper first learns — has two distinct sounds,” Barrett explains. “The first sound comes from a brush forward, and the second sound comes from a brush back. Tap is all about the rhythm in your feet.”

Barrett and Ludowise act as instructors for the group, too. The first thing they warn beginning tappers, they say, is that learning to tap will take a lot of repetition.

“It’s helpful to break down one step into smaller steps,” Barrett says of her teaching technique. “You teach the smaller steps and then fit them together into the big step. Even if the student understands the general idea of the step it is usually beneficial to keep practicing that step to truly master it.”

It takes about a year to learn the basic moves of tap, she says.

Meetings for DU Tappers are held 7 p.m. Wednesdays in the Centennial Towers Lounge.

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