Tap dance maestro Jason Samuels Smith, whose name is synonymous with Tap Dance across the globe has come all the way from New York to Bengaluru.
This being his eighth visit to the country, “The last time I was here, I was on a high. I did three shows in three cities over three days. There is something new happening here all the time,” says Jason.
Inspired by his mother who ran a dance studio when he was a child, Jason hung out very often there. “I knew I wanted to create rhythm and music with my body,” he says.
Jason owes his interest in this art form to American dance legend Gregory Hines, whose performances inspired him to learn the art form.
The proud co-owner of Divine Rhythm, an artist management agency, the choreographer of multiple films and television shows, the founder of Anybody Can Get It, a Tap company, the man behind the film Tap Dreams, Jason has a lot on his platter. But what excited him the most was his experience on the show Sesame Street.
He says, “For a kid who has grown up in America, Sesame Street is very important as there is a lot you learn from the show. This was my first interaction with the professional world as I did a Tap dance item on the show.”
Jason has also featured on an episode of So You Think You Can Dance.
“As much as I appreciate getting the opportunity to be on the show, I cannot say that this was my best experience as the show does not consistently incorporate Tap Dance. But it was challenging in the sense that I was responsible to take this art form to the world.”
More recently, Jason has been in collaboration with the Kathak ace Pandit Chitresh Das. “When I was in a meeting backstage during the American Dance Festival in North Carolina, I was mesmerised by the sound of the feet from his performance on stage. Ever since, we have been telling tales through dance together.”
The collaboration of Kathak and Tap Dance is fascinating, but of course nothing comes easy. “Getting proper amplification of sound during a performance is quite a challenge as the sound of the feet and ghunghrus are very different,” he says.
The joys of performing with a classical artiste are very gratifying. He adds, “We want to promote unity across the world. This is a great way to bring Tap and Kathak audiences together. Dance and music unite people.”
Pandit and Jason tell a beautiful tale through their performance.
“Watching Panditji's performance is a powerful experience for me as I get motivated to perform as well as he does,” says Jason. They don't get enough time to practice together and work impromptu. “It is more exciting when it is spontaneous,” he adds.
So, what does one need to be a Tap dancer? Jason says, “Rhythm, passion, respect for the history of the form, knowledge of music, control, balance, style, creativity, style and individual perspective.”
Jason is currently developing an American show Chasing The Bird and is working on a line of Tap shoes – Jason Samuels Smith Tap shoes.