The rhythm can be created through dancing, as tap dance; which is a performance art that relies on dancers creating catchy rhythms with their feet.
Tap dance is known for its syncopated, catchy beats and improvisational choreography, which links it to jazz music.
And you can find many dance studios that teach tap classes if you are interested in this type of dance and want to learn it.
In this article, I will introduce to you a special interview with the professional tap dancer “Yono Lee” CEO of YONO Company, Korea Tap Orchestra (KTO) Founder, Executive Director and Team Captain to tell us more about “KTO”, a professional tap dance group.
One of the most prominent works of the group, “Yono” was the lead tap dance choreographer for the movie ‘Swing Kids’ (스윙키즈) Starring EXO’s Do Kyung-soo, they also choreographed for other films such as Yuwol, Bird Cage and delivered the opening show of the 2021 Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN), as well as the commercials like Outback in collaboration with Lia Kim, Maxim T.O.P., and Mongbest.
Voilà The Dialogue:
Aya –Q- At first, can you tell us more about “Korea Tap Orchestra” and when the troupe was founded?
Yono -A- Korea Tap Orchestra (KTO) is a professional tap dance team that brings together top-level tap dancers from various studios in Korea. The group was founded in 2016 under the label YONO Company, a tap dance-based performing arts, and arts education company. I am its founder and artistic director “Yong-kap Park”.
We launched our signature tap concert called ‘All That RHYTHM’ in 2016 and we’ve been performing and reinventing this show annually since then.
Originally, tap dance is an American dance and music genre, a performing art that developed on par with jazz. At KTO we aim to reinterpret this genre by infusing it with Korean sentiments and adapting it to Korean music and rhythms. We want to create our own content and that can resonate with our local audience.
Aya -Q- What kind of music do you dance to?
Yono -A- Tap dance developed in close connection with jazz, so tap dancers not only in America but around the world typically train and perform on jazz rhythms: this is the classic form of tap. Of course, this is a key part of our training and repertory, and we are grateful for the deep heritage we received from U.S. tap legends. But we also wanted to bring something new into the genre, so we began to experiment with traditional Korean rhythms of gugak. In this way, we try to bring a Korean perspective to the genre and innovate by fusing the classic aspects of this art form with our own cultural background. This is an ongoing research for us.
Aya -Q- How many hours per day or week do you spend practicing?
Yono -A- Typically, we practice twice a week as a team and three or more times a week individually, for about two or three hours at a time. This would be the basic structure for us. But these days because of COVID-19 we can’t have a group practice as often as we’d like to, so we’ve come to rely more on individual training.
Aya -Q- How long does it take to become a professional tap dancer?
Yono -A- It really depends on individual characteristics. For someone talented, with a good sense of rhythm, or who is experienced in other dance genres, it may go pretty fast. But generally speaking, for someone starting from scratch, it takes about 10 years to perform on stage comfortably as a professional tap dancer.
Aya -Q- What are the most important skills that a tap dancer should have?
Yono -A- The basic mechanism of tap dance is the creation and showcase of rhythms, so the most important thing for a tap dancer is rhythmicality, just as for musicians. Then in terms of performance, showmanship is important, as well as musicality, or the capacity to interpret and translate music into movement. When we think of tap dance there is a tendency to focus solely on the dance aspect, but actually, before being a dance, I think tap is a form of music since it relies fundamentally on creating rhythm. In this sense, rhythmicality and musicality are vital qualities for a tap dancer.
Aya -Q- What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a professional tap dancer?
Yono -A- To tap, tap a lot! I’d tell them that rather than giving it a lot of thought, the most important thing is to put their tap shoes on and just tap. Explore and discover which rhythms come out of your practice each and every day. That’s what practice is meant for: exploring, discovering, and developing a capacity to express oneself in new ways. If you do that over and over, at some point you’ll find yourself a tap dancer!
Aya – The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the performing arts. Due to physical distancing requirements and closure of the physical venues, curtailing not only public performances but also rehearsals, and live performances have been canceled or postponed.
Q- How did you deal with and overcome this situation?
Yono -A- The COVID-19 pandemic has created many difficulties not only for the artistic sector but for the economy, the social and medical sectors, every sphere of society has been affected. It’s a difficult situation globally. But I think that, historically, artists have always played a special role, they have a sort of mission to inspire people in difficult times. Nowadays social distancing measures make it hard to meet each other in person, so artists have to create new ways to bring arts and culture to the public, such as through digital platforms.
As KTO we also opted for online media to present our show and hosted livestream sessions to communicate with our audience in real-time. For classes too, we created a tutorial program on YouTube, NUGUNA Tap Dance, to help students continue nurturing their skills at home. This has also allowed us to reach and interact with more people, not only in Korea but abroad. For example, we received videos from 16 different countries on one of our Instagram challenges. Feeling connected brings us comfort as we try to overcome this situation together.
Aya – Last month, you held an amazing concert called “All That RHYTHM”.
Q- Are there any other upcoming projects and performances?
Yono -A- Yes, we presented our signature tap concert, ‘All That RHYTHM’ last October. It was the first time meeting a live audience since the pandemic started almost two years ago. Preparing a show while complying with all the necessary social distancing measures was challenging, but we were very happy with the chance to perform live.
In the future, we hope to continue developing this show and creating new contents by collaborating with genres we haven’t approached until now. We want to keep developing Korea Tap Orchestra’s unique artistic color, creating our own style and rhythms to share with the global tap dance scene. As a tap dancer based in Korea, I’d like to contribute to the growth and greater popularity of this genre by tapping into Korean music and arts, such as gugak and k-pop, which are the closest to us.
Aya -Q- What’s the first thing you want to do after the COVID-19 pandemic is over?
Yono -A- I’d like to organize a tap dance festival. An event where we can be reunited in the same space, finally take off our masks, dance, and enjoy the show together. Not only performing from afar but inviting the audience to join us on stage and interact, offer them a chance to experience tap dance in person and have a good time together.
Aya -Q- What are your goals and dreams for the future?
Yono -A- Maybe it’s because I do it myself, but I think tap dance is very fun. I’d like for many more people to get to know tap dance, which is partly why KTO strives to meet the public each year with ‘All That RHYTHM’. I’d like to create chances for tap dance to be popularized so that more people can enjoy it. This could include movies, through idol groups that people love, CFs (advertisement clips), musicals…I wish there were many more spaces and opportunities to showcase tap dance across all genres.
Check out their amazing performances and you can enjoy more videos via the official YouTube channel 👇