BWW Interview: Tapping it Up with Hillary-Marie of JERSEY TAP FEST

BWW Interview: Tapping it Up with Hillary-Marie of JERSEY TAP FEST

BWW Interview: Tapping it Up with Hillary-Marie of JERSEY TAP FEST

Jersey Tap Fest is a dance festival that features world-class tap dancers, faculty, and an exceptional extravaganza to celebrate the life and legacy of tap dance in New Jersey. Since its founding in 2010 by Hillary-Marie, this annual festival has become a way to bring the tap dance community together, teach its history, preserve its unique percussive and improvisational style, and increase respect for this cherished American dance form.

I had the lovely opportunity to speak with Hillary-Marie, Founder and Director of Jersey Tap Fest.

What is Jersey Tap Fest?

Jersey Tap Fest is New Jersey's sole dance festival featuring world-class tap faculty and extravaganza. Offering over 60 master classes with internationally acclaimed artists and multiple performance opportunities, we celebrate the masters of the past and bring light to the current and upcoming masters of today by giving them the opportunity to educate the current and next generation dancers as the future face of the tap dance community. The festival is a stimulating, demanding and rigorous annual program that allows for tap dancers all over the world to improve their technical abilities, hone their performance skills, network within the community and increase their overall knowledge of the art form. Jersey Tap Fest is an opportunity to be surrounded by tap family, to learn, to grow and be inspired.

Is it important that the festival be in New Jersey as opposed to New York?

Absolutely! I grew up in the New Jersey tap dance community and spent the last six years living in New York. And while my experiences in both the New Jersey and New York tap communities have been beautiful, and just a hop-skip and a jump away from each other, they're completely different. Every artistic community around the world has its own individual vibe and identity that deserves to be celebrated as such. Just on the other side of the Hudson, New Jersey has a heavily concentrated number of organizations that are committed to the forward movement of the dance. Successful dance communities aren't synonymous with big cities, they're synonymous with big hearts and dedication, which can be a prominent attribute in any city or state around the world. Jersey Tap Fest is a reflection of that.

What inspired you to create this festival?

I'm a Jersey Girl, born and raised! And wouldn't be where I am today without the nurture and support of the tap community I grew up in. I started Jersey Tap Fest to highlight the amazing local talent and beautiful tap dance community that I grew up in and it turned into so much more than I could have ever asked for. There's a beautiful lineage of homegrown tap dance artists who have come from the New Jersey area and I felt like New Jersey deserved to be on the tap festival map. It's been a success ever since, and I owe it to the community to keep it going.

What are some of the activities we can expect to see at Jersey Tap Fest?

Intermediate through professional level master classes such as 'Latin Jazz Grooves', 'Conscious Timing', 'In The Cotton Club', 'Mixed Meter Marathon' and many more. We have a choreography residency, Tiny Taps program for dancers ages 7 and up with less than two years of formal tap dance training, and an Adults Only track for dancers ages 25+ for Advanced Beginner level.

We also offer a Student Showcase, a Jam Session with live music and Tap Talks with our artists. Our most popular annual main stage event is, Tap 'N Time. This year, the program will feature artists such as Ayodele Casel, Anthony Morigerato, Lisa LaTouche, Ray Hesselink, Karen Callaway Williams, Corey Hutchins, FutureSTEP Tap Company, the JAM Youth Project and other special guests with live musical accompaniment under the direction of Andrew Atkinson. The show is guaranteed to bring you to your feet!

Is there anything that you are personally looking forward to during this year's festival?

For me, it's the energy and the vibe that I always look forward to. I love watching dancers walk in hungry and walk away inspired and ready for their next steps in their journey within dance. I love being in one place with so many amazing artists. I'm energized by the youngest dancers, the oldest dancers, and everyone in between. The festival truly gets bigger and better every year! While reflecting on the past seven years, all I can do is give continuous thanks and look forward to another amazing celebration.

Jersey Tap Fest will take place August 10-13, 2017 at Nicole's Broadway Dance Company with a Tap 'N Time performance at the Westminster Arts Center located on the campus of Bloomfield College. For more information or to register for the festival, please visit their website at


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Caryn Cooper Caryn Cooper is an arts administrator, educator and performer from Long Island, NY. She began her dance training at a young age studying ballet in the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) technique and other dance forms such as tap, jazz, hip hop, modern and West African. She has had the opportunity to perform at various venues in the Greater New York City Area including, Radio City Music Hall, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, the 92Y, Ailey CitiGroup Theater, Central Park, and The Wild Project. Administratively, she has worked for a number of arts organizations including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispanico, and the New York City Center. Currently at Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, she works to plan arts education programs for schools and seniors in underserved communities throughout Queens and the New York City Metropolitan area. Caryn is currently a Moving for Life Certified Instructor (MFLCI) where she uses dance to help breast cancer recovery patients and those dealing with pain caused by chronic illnesses. She is currently pursuing a certification as a BodyMind Dancing (BMD) Instructor, under the direction of Dr. Martha Eddy, to guide students as they reflect and learn about the 3-dimenionality and repatterning of the body. Caryn is a member of Americans for the Arts, the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), the New York State Dance Education Association (NYSDEA), and sits on the Young Professionals Committee of The Possibility Project and the Board of Trustees for Moving for Life, Inc. She is also a Contributing writer for BroadwayWorld Dance. She is the proud recipient of the 2016 Field Diversity Award and the 2017 Jessica Wilt Memorial Scholarship through the Americans for the Arts.