NORTH ANDOVER — Tap United, the annual tap dancing festival hosted by North Andover’s Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studios, is not your typical dance recital. Featuring hundreds of tap dancers from around the world, when they say this event is “spec-tap-ular,” they mean it.
“Even if one was not a dance lover, (there is) something for everyone,” said Nancy Chippendale, owner of Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studios. “A lot of people in the past have said that this is better than a Broadway show — their words, not mine.”
On Friday, Aug. 15, dancers from Chippendale’s studio, around the region and world will participate in Tap United, a showcase of different dancers and varieties of tap dancing. The dancers represent six countries and span from ages 11 to 30.
Tap United, one of the largest tap dancing festivals in the world, will feature a variety of stars in the tap community. Sarah Reich and Maud Arnold from of the dance troupe Syncopated Ladies, who recently competed on “So You Think You Can Dance,” Los Angeles-based dancer/choreographer Jason Janas, and Josh Johnson, a two-time veteran of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” will be among the featured dancers.
This year is the 10th anniversary of Tap United. Chippendale’s studio began dancing with international teams in 2003, when the team was invited by the United States Dance Team to compete in the International Dance Organization World Tap Championships in Germany. The dancers from all countries forged friendships over their shared love of tap.
“Our students and families really valued the opportunity, because, yes, it was about dance and it was about working hard, and about work ethic and all that, but it’s also about learning about cultures and meeting people from all over,” Chippendale said, adding that there were approximately 30 countries represented at the championship and 3,000 dancers. “Even though we don’t speak the same language, we do with our feet, so we all manage to communicate.”
While tap is an American artform and still most popular in this country, Chippendale said, popularity is spreading abroad, especially in Europe. And the addition of Chippendale’s team has upped the profile of the World Tap Championship across the pond.
“Once we got over there, then everybody else started training harder, hiring American teachers to come over there, and then bringing their dancers over here to train,” Chippendale said. “The talent is getting bigger over there and getting better.”
Chippendale’s studio began inviting their European friends in 2005 when Team Germany, headed by IDO organizer Michael Wendt, came to North Andover. This year, dancers from Germany, England, Italy, Switzerland and the Czech Republic will join the American dancers in this year’s performance. Wendt will serve as this year’s master of ceremonies.
“We’ve met these dancers and became friends with them, (and) even though we compete on the stage ... the kids have all become friends,” Chippendale said, adding that her dancers have developed especially close bonds with dancers from Team England.. “Some of (the British) kids are staying with the same host families they’ve been staying with for four years.”
Kelli Carberry, Chippendale’s daughter, said that Tap United gives the dancers the opportunity to form bonds and focus on their mutual love of dance without the pressure of competition.
“As a kid, you’re doing sports, you’re doing dance, where everything is about winning or losing,” said Carberry, who is a choreographer at her mother’s studio as well as the 2010 world champion female solo tap dancer at the World Tap Championships. “This is something that they can just really enjoy.”
For about a week, the dancers rehearsed for six hours each day.
The national teams and individual performers will all come together — about 200 dancers in all — at the finale for a collaborative performance.
“Most of what people will see in the show is a variety of all different styles of dance, because there’s so many different choreographers and dancers from different countries,” Chippendale said. “You would be amazed at how many different (dance styles) you can do with tap.”
Carberry said their dancers rehearse their routine five to six days a week in the year leading up to Tap United.
Despite the grueling schedule, especially in the week leading up to the show, Chippendale said the dancers don’t get burnt out.
“They just go and go and go,” she said of her dancers and the British participants, who refer to themselves collectively as the “Brits and Chipps.” Chippendale added that “nobody has time to get homesick,” between rehearsals and trips to Boston, Hampton Beach, Canobie Lake Park and spending time with their American friends.
Chippendale promises a “fantastic” show for all who attend.
“It’s not just people that go to this studio that go and see the show,” she said. “I want the community to see it, so that they can support these fabulous dancers from all over the world.”
Chippendale said the European dancers love performing for American audiences.
“One thing the Brits said is that, when they perform in England, that the audience is very reserved,” she said. “Our audience gives them thunderous applause at the end ... They absolutely love the energy in the audience. They feel valued and appreciated.”
“It’s really a great culture experience, the whole show, and it gives everyone a sense of togetherness and unity,” Carberry said. “There are so many people from around the world, working together and sharing in one artform that we all enjoy ... I think that it is a show like no other show, where there’s so much excitement within each piece of choreography and each dancer.”
“To have this kind of talent in your town, the community should not miss this show,” Chippendale said. “We have taken it to a different level.”
IF YOU GO
What: Tap United
Where: J. Everett Collins Center, adjacent to Andover High School, located at 100 Shawsheen Road in Andover
When: Friday, Aug. 15, at 7 p.m.
How: Tickets can be purchased in advanced at tapunited1.com for $25 or for $30 at the door by cash or check.
For more information, contact Chippendale at 978-685-5533 or via email at email@example.com.