Syncopated Ladies, a hit female tap dance band, gave a virtual performance for the Westminster community April 15 as part of the Graham Gund ’59 Visiting Artist Series. Students and faculty viewed the concert during advisory meetings.
Created by Emmy Award-nominated tap dancer and choreographer Chloé Arnold, the group has more than 70 million views online and has received praise from Beyoncé and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as many other celebrities and news outlets around the world. Some of the group’s credits include “The Ellen Show,” “Good Morning America,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” Global Citizen Week, New York Fashion Week and many more. They have performed in concerts for sold-out audiences.
Chloé began the group’s Westminster performance with introductions of the dancers and explained that tap is an African American art form and that the group “continues that tradition with pride and honor.” She encouraged everyone to get up and dance.
“Not only is dancing fun, it is so powerful,” she said. “It can affect how you feel.” She and the other dancers shared the names of songs that make them feel good. She added, “Art makes you feel powerful.”
The 30-minute concert included tap performances to Bruno Mar’s “Uptown Funk,” and homages to the film “Black Panther,” Prince and Beyoncé. The group also performed a dance they created called “Rise Up” and closed with a performance to “No Problem” by Chance the Rapper.
Chloé explained that an important part of tap dance is improvisation, saying, “It is like your imagination on the dance floor.” She added that another pillar of tap dance is the technique of call and response, a tradition often used in West African culture. “That means I go, you go,” she explained, as she asked the audience to join in. “Call and response is a great way to communicate.”
The group also demonstrated the shim sham shimmy dance routine that is known worldwide by tap dancers and is nearly 100 years old. “That is the power of dance,” said Chloé. “What is incredible about tap dance is that it has no limits, just like you have no limits.” She and the other dancers each shared a big dream they have. “You can dream big,” she encouraged the students.
In closing the concert, Chloé reviewed some of the things that were learned during the event and told the students: “Always be yourself, love yourself and do things that give you joy. We can’t wait to see you on the dance floor.”
Members of Syncopated Ladies also participated in a live question-and-answer session with students during advisory meeting April 17. Faculty member Kerry Kendall, who arranged the Syncopated Ladies Westminster visit, welcomed everyone to the webinar, and Olivia Goldstuck ’21 and Andrea Warrick ’21, who are both dancers themselves, asked members of the group, who included Chloé Arnold, Maud Arnold, Anissa Lee and Pamela Yasutake, questions.
“We are a little star struck,” said Olivia as she invited the dancers to talk about their backgrounds and when they joined Syncopated Ladies. “We are all friends,” replied Pamela. “Our emphasis is on sisterhood, which carries us through anything.”
In response to a question about how their art and activism go hand in hand, Chloé said: “The art is a reflection of the journey through our lives. … We are always taking actions to make the world better.”
When Andrea asked them to share a powerful moment from a performance, each of the dancers cited various performances and venues that stood out.
And in response to a question about how they express self-love and self-worth through their art, Chloé said, “When you are listening to music, make sure you are listing to music that gives feelings you want to live by.”
“We celebrate the things that have left us marginalized,” added Pamela.
When asked to discuss some challenges they face, Maud said: “Obstacles are as big as you make them. … Figure it out and focus on the solution.” She added that one of the biggest challenges they have faced is bullying.
The last question posed by Olivia was for the dancers to name some pioneers of tap and individuals who have inspired them personally, which they did. Maud closed by saying, “It is important to have a lot of different mentors and inspirations.”
The webinar ended with Kerry praising Syncopated Ladies and thanking the dancers for participation in their Westminster virtual visit.
Members of the Gund Family established the Graham Gund ’59 Visiting Artist Series fund in 1991 in honor of Graham Gund ’59 at his 50th birthday. Income from the fund underwrites the cost of bringing outstanding artists to Westminster to enrich students’ understanding and appreciation of the performing arts.