By Amanda Valentovic Staff Writer
On any Tuesday or Thursday night and even on some Saturdays, metal heels can be heard hitting the floorboards of the dance studio in Calkins Hall. Those heels belong to the members of Rhythmix, Hofstra’s tap dance club that is new to campus this year. Comprised of about 20 people, the group ranges from complete beginners just strapping on their shoes to experienced dancers who have been learning for years.
Alyssa Ruggiero, a senior accounting major and dance minor, decided to start the club at the beginning of the year after previous attempts to start a tap dance club in the past fell through.
“It wasn’t established and it didn’t meet, and just fell off the grid,” said Ruggiero, now the president of Rhythmix. “So last semester, I filed the paperwork and wrote the constitution, presented it to SGA, and it got approved.” The founding members worked with Anita Feldman, associate professor of dance and head of the Dance Education Program, to spread the word about the new club amongst dance majors while inviting members of Danceworks to join.
When asked if Rhythmix’s first year had gone as well as she’d hoped, club treasurer Janelle Oppenheim said, “It’s gone a lot better.” The sophomore dance and management major also said, “It’s gotten bigger than I think any of us thought it would get.” Rhythmix can credit part of its success to the many new dancers who have become interested in tap from different majors and backgrounds, as well as people who might not have been able to fit Danceworks rehearsals into their schedules. “Wearing apparel also helps,” Ruggiero said. “Because when you’re wearing a shirt around campus, people see it and see that it exists.”
In addition to learning choreography, Rhythmix has managed to hold master classes with professional tap dancers such as Ryan Casey and Jenai Cutcher West about once a month, a favorite activity among the members of the group. They watch videos and documentaries on the history of tap to learn about the genre, but also just hang out and have fun with each other.
Even with the wide variety of experience levels within Rhythmix, all of the members can benefit from dancing.
“We can offer choreography that challenges the experts,” Ruggiero said. “Beginners can see what they can develop into, and they can be pushed out of their comfort zone.”
The reverse is true as well; it is always good for more skilled dancers to revisit the basics, as pointed out by Ruggiero. For those tap dancers who are just learning, it is only a matter of time before they can shuffle across the room.
“We had a kid who didn’t even have tap shoes,” said Oppenheim. “And now he’s learning, and we get so excited when we see him.” The members all rotate taking turns teaching a class, hoping that their knowledge will rub off on others.
Rhythmix is not a performance group, but the club is hoping to tap for an audience sometime in the future.
“We want to perform at the Cabaret [in Spiegel Theater],” said Alexis Robbins, a junior. A dance and exercise science major as well as the secretary of Rhythmix, Robbins also said, “We’re not a performance group, but it would be nice to do something in front of a crowd of people.” Other goals that Rhythmix hopes to reach this year include taking a trip into the city to see a show or taking a tap class as a group, or even simply learning new choreography by watching a YouTube instructional video.
The members of Rhythmix are hopeful that their numbers will grow in their second year on campus and into the future. “It would be nice to get more people,” said Robbins. Oppenheim agreed and said she would like to expand the number of people that go to events, to make the club better known. “Tap isn’t that recognized by a lot of people, and it’s not easy to do,” she said.
Whether students are learning something new about dance or just revisiting what they learned in years past, all of the members of Rhythmix agree they are enjoying what they are doing.
“You can get something out of it, whoever you are,” Robbins said. “Not to mention it’s really fun!”