Jason Samuels Smith: a conversation about Tap Dance

Tutto Mondo’s interview with Jason Samuels Smith is now available in English. After Justin Boccitto, our reissuing for international readers is going back to our first interview.

Jason Samuels Smith

Photo by courtesy of Jason Samuels Smith.

Today, in tap dance, one of the most renowned personalities in the world is Jason Samuels Smith, tap dancer, choreographer, and director from the USA.

Son of the dancers and choreographers Sue Samuels and Jo Jo Smith, Jason is surrounded by dancing personalities since he was little. His parents teach in New York City in the studio called Jo Jo’s Dance Factory, which later become the Broadway Dance Center. Among his achievements, there are shows like Bring in da’ Noise Bring in da’ Funk, Imagine Tap, and India Jazz Suites. More recently, he is a guest in the tv show So You Think You Can Dance, he is one of the dancers in Thank You Gregory: A Tribute to the Legends of Tap, and he is credited in an internationally renowned documentary about Fred Astaire.

As a humanitarian, Jason Samuels Smith supports organizations like Dancing Responding to Aids and Tap Into A Cure. In 2003 Jason won an Emmy and an American Choreography Award for the opening number of Jerry Lewis/MDA Telethon, in a tribute to Gregory Hines. In the same year, he received the certificate of Appreciation by the City of Los Angeles for the creation of the first Los Angeles Tap Festival. Among others awards, he is the recipient of the President Kenny Awards and, in 2007, the Gregory Hines Humanitarian Awards.

Among Jason‘s aims, there is the intention of promoting lasting respect for the art form and the creation of opportunities for tap dancers, as he continues to provide leadership and open doors for Tap dancers around the world. .

Hello Jason Samuels Smith, thank you for the opportunity to take this interview.

Jason Samuels Smith, let’s start with the first question. What means tap dancing for you and what do you love about it?

«Tap Dancing means complete Freedom of creation and expression in one of the rawest forms of dance. It means Community, mentorship, family, language, culture, revolution».

Which were your favourite shows to dance into during your career and why?

«I have been blessed to perform in so many amazing shows in my life. Some that stand out the most would be Bring in ‘da Noise Bring in ‘da Funk, Soul Possessed, Imagine Tap, India Jazz Suites, And Still you must swing, to name a few… all of these shows challenged me in different ways and stretched me as artist. I feel these and many other shows have helped me grow».

What are your favourites tap dancers and tap dance movies?

«I have too many favorite Tap Dancers but i will start with people like Gregory Hines, John Bubbles, Baby Laurence, Chuck Green, Jimmy Slyde, Baby Edwards, Lois Bright, Clayton Peg leg Bates, The Nicholas Brothers, The Four Step Brothers, Dianne Walker… my favorite tap film is the movie Tap».

How is Tap Dancing different today as compared to years ago?

«Tap Dance has changed because the way people interact and exchange information has changed. Also music has changed, and after this quarantine the world will change again! Now people have more access to information, with less guidance and mentorship as a priority so many parts of the culture get left out».

As we know, Tap Dancing peculiarity is this trait d’union between dancing and music, what do you suggest to students/dancer who wants to develop their musicality and sense of rhythm?

«I suggest Tap dancers listen to As much Jazz and Blues as they can. Also they should build a musical library that includes world music with various time signatures and tempos».

It was a pleasure meeting you at Moscato Tap Fest in 2015, I really hope you will come again to Italy. Any suggestions or advice for Italian Tap dancers?

«My advice to Tap Dancers in Italy is to keep practicing and studying about Tap Dance culture and history. Ask Elders in the Tap community questions».

Growing up in a family where you can breathe and experience dance in your everyday routine should have been really thrilling. Is there a particular event or you want to share with us?

«I remember my Mom playing records at home and either dancing or just listening to a variety of music. Spending time at the dance studio everyday was also part of my childhood so i was exposed to so much music and dance throughout my upbringing. One of the highlights for me was getting the chance to Dance and perform with both of my parents».

Let’s talk about your shoes designed for Bloch, which I also have in white. Why you’ve decided to design them?

«After my favorite shoe maker Pete died, i wanted to make sure there would be a standard of quality for Tap Dancers regardless of customization. I spent years on the design but i am happy with the results».

A pair of white Jason Samuels Smith’s shoes, photo by courtesy of Maria Giulia Cecchini.

Last but not least important, What are your plans for the future?

«My future plans include recording my Tap Dance as an instrument. Also to develop more shows using Tap Dance as the vehicle».

We thank Jason Samuels Smith for his time. For more information about his  work, you can visit his Instagram profile or the official site of Divine Rhythm Productions.

Leggi l’intervista in Italiano qui.

Roberto Romani
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