The Sultry Sarah Reich is a star attraction at this month’s Australian Tap Dance Festival
As a child, Sarah Reich hated dancing. The Californian kid didn’t enjoy winding her hair into a tight bun or wearing leotards. But when the opportunity came to work with the late, great Paul Kennedy – who had even coached Michael Jackson – she fell in love with tap.
It’s not the most fashionable form of dance, but even so it’s really taken off in LA – a town quick to pick up on a fun new scene. Reich and her friends like to hit nightclubs and tap-jam with the bands – and not just at the Latin and jazz clubs. “Most music has a percussive element,” she says. “I’ve tapped to alternative, Indian and classical music.” Her Monday Night Tap Experience has become such a staple that it attracts out-of-towners as well as locals. Unusually, after the class, the students sit in a circle and each critique the teacher. “I make sure everyone knows that there is always room for growth,” she explains. “I’ve had some of the best tap dancers in the world come to teach and they still get critiqued. Mostly good notes!”
In addition, she appears as part of Chloe Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies, on programs such as So You Think You Can Dance. Rocking double denim, or hot pants and high heel boots, they tap to the likes of Beyonce and Rihanna.
Now her passion takes her all over the world, including Melbourne in September, for the Australian Tap Dance Festival. This spree is packed with classes for all abilities, and national and international performances – Reich appears at Good Vibrations, a concert packed with talent and live music (Irving Hall, 38 Huntingtower Rd, Armadale 3143. 6.30pm. $30-$36. Sat Oct 4).
“Tap dancing is great for fitness,” she says. “You're constantly moving, jumping, using your arms and your core. When you become an intermediate or advanced student you start reaching for harder steps like pullbacks and wings that require a lot of core strength and stamina.”
If that sounds like a challenge, consider the mission to make tap fashionable when old mental images of Fred and Ginger endure. “It's important to continue to follow your passion regardless of what the struggles may be,” she says. “Tap is not extremely popular to the point that we're constantly getting asked for performance opportunities. Each of the Syncopated Ladies is a hustler. We work so hard individually on our own to create opportunities for ourselves and others. We accept the challenge to push on, gain respect for tap dance and open doors for generations to come.”