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Posted on Fri 17 Jun
Brummies are being urged to put their best foot forward to watch and take part in a huge tap dancing event in the city centre and online.
Tappin’ In sees 130 dancers from across the West Midlands performing together in Brindleyplace on June 18, followed by a mass tap lesson for people of all ages and abilities. Organisers are planning to teach the shim sham, known as the national anthem of tap dancing, to hundreds of enthusiasts.
The live performance element has brought together people from Birmingham, Coventry, Rugby, Stoke, Cannock, Chelmsley Wood, Tamworth and Telford in both dance and conversation.
Project artistic director Stephanie Ridings explains: “Since February, 130 participants from across the West Midlands have been learning tap for 12 sessions, so a total of 12 hours, and also have been sharing stories about themselves to create a form of artwork alongside their tap dancing.”
The performers come together for their big Tappin’ In performance on June 18, which has three interconnected themes – arrival, home and celebration.
“There are a lot of people who have arrived in the West Midlands, so it’s partly about arriving in an area that you might not have been born in, how you manage that, what home means to you,” says Stephanie.
“It’s not necessarily bricks and mortar, it could be people or it could be an experience. Then we are celebrating coming together after everything we’ve been through and being able to be with people again.”
For many of the performers, the dance classes were their first group events after lockdown. In partnership with organisations across the region, the Tappin’ In team have held the classes largely in groups which had met pre-pandemic and were re-established after lockdown.
Working with a creative facilitator, each group’s conversations and stories have also formed the basis for artworks that will be shown on a giant screen at the Brindleyplace event.
“The stories have been shaped in different ways, so some groups have created some spoken word and storytelling and others have specific items,” says Stephanie. “For example, with the Telford group, that region has a history of tile-making so they’ve made some tiles and they’ve also made crochet tiles which they are going to make into a blanket which they will give to a dementia group.
“We’ve been filming the process from the start and interviewing people, asking ‘what does tap mean to you?’ and ‘what does home mean to you?’. We then put this together to tell the story of arrival, home and celebration. We are basically saying Brindleyplace is the magical world of tap and we can all go there and make it our new home and escape for a bit.”
The performance will be followed by a quick lesson in a series of steps before the mass shim sham led by television and radio personality Christopher Green.
Creative producer Lou Lomas says there is also a chance to practice beforehand. “We’ve done a lot of work in advance to encourage people to learn the shim sham. So on our website we have a lot of tutorials of standing tap, seated tap and body percussion because we really want people to have a go.
“The joy of this project has been about trying something new, it’s about reconnecting with people again.”
“The event is being livestreamed so people can watch on Facebook as well,” says Lou. “We are hoping audiences will take part in the lesson with us and then many more online. It’s exciting for us - how many people will be in Brindleyplace or on their sofas or in their kitchens having a go?”
As part of the project, people have been encouraged to film themselves practicing and share their videos on social media.
The event forms part of Birmingham International Dance Festival and Birmingham 2022 Festival, which see artists from across the globe performing in locations across the city.
“We are taking participants who are not professional and putting them centre stage in two international festivals,” says Stephanie. “What is great about the dance festival is that Tappin’ In is like a dance theatre piece so it’s great to be taking that into a professional dance arena.
“And in terms of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, that is celebrating the people of the West Midlands and we are saying, look, we are those people. And it’s not just the participants, we’ve tried to recruit all those involved in running the project from the West Midlands so we are also leaving a skills legacy in the region.”
The overriding element is enjoyment, says Stephanie.
“I hope that everyone involved has a really positive and fun experience and that they go away feeling prouder of the West Midlands. And that they also go away thinking you can try new things, it doesn’t matter how old you are and you don’t have to be amazing at them. Just enjoying doing it is OK.”
Taking place on June 18 at 3pm at Brindleyplace, Tappin’ In is free, Covid-safe and open to all. For more information and to learn the shim sham steps see www.tappinin2022.com
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