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In the News > Following in nimble footsteps

Sisters who founded D.C. Tap Festival aim to entertain, inspire, educate
14 Apr 2011

 

Following in nimble footsteps 

Sisters who founded 

D.C. Tap Festival aim to 

entertain, inspire, educate 

BY MEGAN BUERGER 

At last year’s D.C. Tap Festival, 6-year- 

old Luke Spring of Ashburn took the stage 

for an impromptu dance number. Minutes 

later, he had a standing ovation, and by 

the next morning, he was a YouTube 

sensation. 

“I woke up completely frantic,” his 

mother, Jill Spring, said. “You don’ t want 

your 6-year-old all over the Internet. But, 

once I relaxed, things really took off.” 

What followed was a wave of dizzying 

phone calls and media appearances, 

including “The Ellen Degeneres Show” 

and “So You Think You Can Dance,” and 

performances at the Kennedy Center, the 

Apollo Theater and Broadway’s Town Hall. 

The pint-size prodigy, who celebrated 

his eighth birthday Sunday, is a second- 

grader at Cedar Lane Elementary School. 

He will be performing again at the third 

annual festival this weekend. The festival, 

which is Friday through Sunday, will offer 

classes and lectures at the D.C. Dance 

Collective in Friendship Heights and a 

concert Saturday at the Duke Ellington 

School of the Arts in Georgetown. The 

festival draws dancers ages 6 to 90 from all 

over the world and of various skill levels. 

Chloe Arnold, who founded the festival 

with her sister, Maud Arnold, in 2009, 

spotted Luke while teaching a master class 

at Studio Bleu in Ashburn last year. 

“I asked him to improvise for me, and I 

videotaped it,” she said. “Six months later, 

as we were planning the festival, I 

remembered how much he had affected 

me. It turned out that he had never 

performed in a concert setting, and he just 

wowed the audience. And I mean, wowed.” 

Luke’s mother — who has two 

daughters, ages 15 and 18, and was new to 

raising boys — never saw this whirlwind 

coming. 

“When Luke was 3, we bought him a 

drum set,” she said. “He was good, but we 

were always at the dance studio with his 

sisters. When he was 4, he dug out a pair of 

tap shoes from the lost-and-found bin and 

started making the rhythms with his feet. 

That’s when it all clicked.” 

After last year’s festival performance, 

the Arnolds submitted Luke’s video to 

“The Ellen Degeneres Show” and local 

news programs. 

Natives of the District’s Takoma 

neighborhood, both sisters credit their 

original interest in tap to meeting 

acclaimed dancers through the 

Washington Performing Arts Society as 

young girls. The festival is their way of 

giving back. Since the festival began in 

2009, the Arnolds have awarded more 

than 100 scholarships to area students. 

“Growing up, I never imagined I could 

be performing in Melbourne, Dubai and 

Tokyo as a dancer,” said Chloe Arnold, who 

wants to remind audiences that tap is an 

American art form. “The next generation 

of D.C. students need to see that these 

opportunities exist.” 

Arnold also produces the Los Angeles 

Tap Festival and, with her sister, owns the 

bi-coastal dance company Chloe and 

Maud Productions. 

“We live our lives as dancers,” Arnold 

said. “We wanted to create a global 

meeting place for these artists to unite so 

that we could then present them to an 

American audience and hopefully 

heighten their appreciation for this art 

form.” 

At Saturday’s concert, Luke will be 

performing with other tap artists, 

including Emmy Award-winner Jason 

Samuels Smith, Grammy Award-winner 

Mya and a dance collective from Taiwan. 

“Luke represents the point of this,” 

Arnold said. “In 20 years, we hope he’ ll 

continue this tradition. He is living proof 

that all you’ ve got to do is open one door.” 

Luke has since partnered with his 

instructor, 21-year-old Justin Lewis, to 

form the dance duo One and a Half Men, 

which performs throughout mid-Atlantic. 

“I might wear a suit,” Luke said, when 

asked about his upcoming performance. 

buergerm@washpost.com 

For information on the D.C. Tap Festival and for 

tickets, visit www.dctapfestival.com. 

 

 

Megan Buerger