Did you know that May 25 is National Tap Dance Day? On November 8, 1989, the 101st U.S. Congress officially signed a law to declare May 25, the birthday of famous tap dancer, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a federal holiday. And this Saturday, May 25, the #Taplife Company is bringing the celebration to the boardwalk with a special event featuring tap dance performances and an acoustic concert by Queens musician, Frank Persico.
Professional tap dancer and teacher, Anthony Lo Cascio of Howard Beach, has got rhythm, and plenty of it. He’s spent a lifetime shuffling, heel stepping and ball changing on stages across the world. So it’s only right that he shares his gift by inspiring others to step up and let their inner tap dancer loose.
Lo Cascio says he began dancing at age nine, where he found a home at Joe Stanford’s studio in Howard Beach. With a male teacher at the helm, Lo Cascio learned that dance wasn’t just for the girls. Stanford took him under his wing and taught him all he needed to know about tap and led him to the stage at Beach Channel High School, where the dance company would perform their annual recitals.
From there, Lo Cascio took what he learned and put it to good use. He spent some time teaching at Steps Ahead Dance Studio. And in 1994, he auditioned for a show in Monte Carlo and spent that summer tapping as part of the opening acts for big stars such as Earth Wind and Fire, Natalie Cole and Stevie Wonder, where Lo Cascio learned that tap was more than just a dance, but a language. “Dance is a universal language. Tap takes it further because tap has sound. When I opened for Stevie Wonder, I got to meet him and I told him I was a tap dancer. He told me that tap is his favorite kind of dance, because it’s the only kind of dance he can see,” Lo Cascio recalled.
For years to come, Lo Cascio would go on to let the world hear and see what his feet could do. He got his big break when he auditioned for Tap Dogs, a famous touring tap dance show that got its start in Australia. “They came to America to tour and landed in New York City and they needed new performers. I auditioned with about 700 other dancers and I didn’t get it right away, but they came back a few months later and I got the job immediately. I was the first American to get a standing role in Tap Dogs and I took over for an original cast member. I toured on and off with them for 17 years and it gave me a lot of popularity in the dance and tap dance community. I’ve been to hundreds of dance studios all over the country, performed in all 50 states, been to seven countries, eight if you count Texas, I got to be on TV and radio shows and I got to be famous in the dance world,” Lo Cascio said. He also spent about 17 years living in California until Hurricane Sandy brought him back to Queens so he could help his family get back on their feet.
Shortly after Sandy, in 2013, Lo Cascio’s #Taplife Company was born. Three years after that, #Taplife became an educational experience and the company started teaching kids across the northeast how to tap dance. Locally, Lo Cascio teaches classes at Mrs. Elaine’s studio in Rockaway, a studio in New Jersey called Dancer’s Edge and at a studio in Long Island. However #Taplife expands far beyond the local area. Saturday’s National Tap Dance Day performance in Rockaway will feature dancers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and even as far as Mexico, all on one stage on Beach 94th Street.
It was during Lo Cascio’s return to Queens following Hurricane Sandy that he reconnected with Ozone Park resident, Frank Persico, who he had attended Fiorello Laguardia High School with back in the day. Persico had written a song called, “Lucky to Be Alive,” which inspired Lo Cascio to choreograph a new dance. Together they collaborated and filmed a video for the song, which Lo Cascio is featured dancing on the Rockaway boardwalk and on the Joe Addabbo bridge, and it became a choreography that the #Taplife Company and others would learn across the country.
Saturday’s performance will bring Lo Cascio, the #Taplife Company and Persico together again to a place that was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. “I think the boardwalk is a really nice venue and for any place that was devastated the way it was, to survive and come back stronger, is amazing. When you say Rockaway, many people know what it is. How do you not do it here? It felt right. National Tap Dance Day is a National Holiday and it’s right at the beginning of the summer season and all of these just came together and it makes sense,” Lo Cascio said, adding that it’s also a tribute to his tap dance beginnings, performing in recitals at Beach Channel High School.
The National Tap Dance Day Performance will take place on the boardwalk at Beach 94th Street, starting at noon. It will feature performances by the #Taplife Company, in between live acoustic performances by Frank Persico, plus a special collaboration of tap along with Persico’s song, “Lucky to Be Alive.” Lo Cascio also hopes others will join in on the fun by participating in some dances like the Shim Sham. “Bring your tap shoes. If you know the Shim Sham, you don’t even need your tap shoes, just come dance with us,” he said.
Lo Cascio hopes Saturday’s performance will give people a whole new perspective of tap dance. “When I was a kid, I was bullied a lot, and I got through that because of dance. Kids didn’t understand it, but now I’m bringing home something that I’m famous for and putting it on blast so that everyone can enjoy it and see that it’s fun. It’s something that brings people together, not pushes them apart. Tap dance is like Morse code for the soul,” Lo Cascio said.
To embrace the message of tap, head to Beach 94th and enjoy this family-friendly, community event on Saturday, May 25 at 12 p.m. And join the dancers after at Bungalow Bar, which is a sponsor of the event. To learn more about the event, check out fb.com/nationaltapdanceday and to learn more about #Taplife Company, head to www.taplifecompany.com or follow them on Instagram @taplifecompanyBLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS