Experiencing a live theatric production is a whirlwind for the senses to be sure, but some artistry is louder than others.
Head to a dance show in the Flathead Valley and you’ll expect the sound of music, the rustle of stage costumes, and the excited hum of a crowd ready to watch their kids or siblings or friends behind the curtain.
But on Jan. 11-13, the sound of tapping will accompany the smiles and effort and grace as the dancers from Feat x Feet perform their big annual winter show at the O’Shaughnessy Center. This year’s show, titled “Art in Motion,” will feature the Feat X Feet Youth Tap Ensemble – one of only a dozen of its kind in the country – and the students from the tap school. Alumni will also participate in the show.
“We perform twice a year,” said Feat x Feet Artistic Director Ashley Smith. “Once in January, which highlights tap ensemble and tap school and any graduating seniors, and once in June. They’re both big in a different way.”
Smith is now in her 22nd year of teaching tap dance in the Flathead, with students starting as young as 3 years old. While at the school, students can audition for the Youth Tap Ensemble, which Smith described as an “advanced, pre-professional performance company.”
She modeled the ensemble off of another in North Carolina, and said it is one of only 12 such ensembles in the country. Her students bring the choreography to life, and bring the passion needed to make a dance a personalized performance.
“Five years ago, our dance groups performed at the Kennedy Center,” Smith said.
In the summer, the students learn from world-class tap dancers, such as Derek K Grant, who fly into the Flathead to teach and create choreography. Smith said some of that choreography will be on display during “Art in Motion,” especially during the senior solos.
While dancing is something nearly every human can technically do, it takes considerable training and skill to become a tap dancer at the level of Smith’s students. This year, the school says goodbye to four graduating seniors, who have spent a combined 50 years learning from Smith.
Gabbi Paulson, who has been tapping with Smith for 15 years, plans to continue dancing as she attends the University of Montana next year for a business degree with a minor in dance.
Lauren Schulz, a tap dancer since she was 3, is an athletic and academic all-state student who plans to study education and run track in college. Aren Alexander, who has tap danced for 10 years, plans to study musical theater at Park Point University after high school. And finally, Jade Greenberg, the relative newcomer to the group with four years at Feat x Feet, is a varsity band member who plans to attend college after high school.
Each senior will have a solo in the show, with dances choreographed by Smith, Grant, and alumni dancers. Otherwise, the show will include a variety of music, from classics to modern favorites, as well as a cappella pieces.
“It’s very upbeat, and it’s not a recital, that’s the big difference,” Smith said. “It’s that step between a dance school with a recital to an actual professional show.”
To help bolster the tapping, Feat x Feet uses a professional, portable tap floor to amplify the sound, and the stage will also feature stages at varying heights.
There will be beer, wine, and other refreshments available in the lobby before and after the show and during intermission. The evenings also include raffle prizes and a slideshow for the graduating seniors.
It’s a fun event for her dancers and for the audience, Smith said, and the intimacy of the O’Shaughnessy Center keeps the shows personal.
“A lot of people say they love it because they feel like they’re really involved,” Smith said.
For more information on Feat x Feet, including how to register for the semester beginning Jan. 21, visit www.featbyfeet.com.