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Tap dancing popularity on the rise

South Vancouver dance instructors teach celebrities and locals

One of the rehearsals at The Rhythm Room dance studio in South Vancouver where Jennifer Bishop teaches. Photo by Jennifer Wilson
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Reported by Jennifer Wilson 

Two South Vancouver tap dancing teachers say the style is being revived in part due to blockbuster films.

The Rhythm Room dance studio in South Vancouver, owned by Jennifer Bishop, is entering its 10th year. She is one of two teachers at the school who have worked with big-name celebrities, like Elvis Presley and Ian McKellen. Tap dancing has had fluctuations in popularity but is becoming more widespread in recent years, which has been helped by Hollywood movies featuring tap dance.

“There’s a lot of people who still think it’s a dying art form, which is really funny to me,” Bishop said. “When Happy Feet came out, that penguin movie, people freaked out and it got people more excited about tap dancing.”

Wide range of students

Bishop has taught several celebrity students over her career, the most famous being McKellan, who plays Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. She helped him prepare a tap sequence for a play in England.

“It’s probably one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had,” Bishop said. “He sent me a lovely photo that says to ‘Jennifer with love from the Middle-earth ball and chain wizard.’ ”

Jim Hibbard, a Rhythm Room instructor and professional performer, has appeared in six movies with Elvis and multiple other productions. He is currently working on a Disney musical, that he isn’t allowed to name, and told The Voice Hollywood provides a boost for tap dancers.

“It’s great for the dancers in town because there are well over 140 local dancers here, and today we’re shooting the finale and there are at least 38 dancers on the floor, plus all the extras and it’s great fun to do,” Hibbard said.

A Rhythm Room student, Deirdre Awas used to be a long-distance runner but now her tap class is the most fun she has all week.

“When I tried tap, I saw my face in the mirror and I thought, did I ever look this happy at the 15k mark of a marathon? And the answer was no,” Awas said.

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