Tap dancing and african drumming in Abbotsford

Snap! by Lauri Apple, a temporarily New Yorker and law student.

I put what success I have had in my career down to the claim on my curriculum vitae that I was the co-founder of the Melbourne University African Drumming Club. As far as I know, that is still going strong. And having travelled through West Africa to Timbuktoo, and listened, entranced to a guy singing along to the accompaniment of his own kora playing in a petrol station in Dakar, I read with particular interest in The Age today about the African drumming and dance academy within a couple of hops of my house, in Hoddle St, Abbotsford:

“For [Grant Swift — tap maestro, ex-stripper, ex-boxer, founder of the Academy], the important thing is to respect the history of tap. He has little patience with the showbiz ‘eyes and teeth’ style, which he considers disconnected from its origins. His own style is rooted in the original African rhythm of tap and was inspired by black vaudeville tappers such as the Nicholas Brothers and Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson.

‘Tap originally came from the slaves, in America. In 1739 they were banned from playing drums, so they started tapping their feet instead. That’s where the form came from.

‘A hundred years later Hollywood steals it, puts mainly white dancers in the films, and says,”If the black people are going to be in it you’re going to be dressed as a butler”.

‘It’s a stolen art form. Thankfully, some of those amazing black dancers were caught on film – you can see what tap really is.'”

I have noticed it before but never really investigated. The pricing of the classes seems pretty reasonable — $16 each for five 90 minute classes — and there is no shortage of them. Anyone able to say what this place is like?

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