Jumaane Taylor, a Chicago native, has been tap dancing since the age of 7. He began his training at the Sammy Dyer School of the Theatre where he currently teaches. He has had the esteemed opportunity to perform and study with Idella Reed Davis, Martin “Tre” Dumas III, Jimmy Payne Jr., Sarah Savelli and George Patterson III. Jumaane made his professional debut with the group M.A.D.D. Rhythms founded by Bril Barrett. Performing and teaching both locally and internationally, Taylor traveled to Europe to perform Rasta Thomas’ “Tap Stars” which premiered in Germany and was apart of the ensemble for "Imagine Tap!" which was directed and choreographed by Derick Grant. He was also a principal dancer for a production entitled “Tap in2 Peace” directed and choreographed by Sarah Savelli and Ayodele Casel. In 2015 Jumaane created “Supreme Love”, a tap dance production honoring John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and the art of tap.
Former Faculty Members...
Tony Merriwether (Artistic Director)
Tony Merriwether was initially inspired during an in-school outreach program conducted by Tapestry Dance Company—which then was the only full-time tap repertory company in the world. Instantly sparked, the fire grew as he moved through the ranks of the organization—from the academy, to the pre-professional company (Visions in Rhythm) directed by Tasha Lawson, to becoming one of the principal dancers in the professional company. In addition to six seasons of shows with Tapestry Dance Company, Tony’s performance credits include Sarah Petronio’s Tribute to Jimmy Slyde, Ayodele Casel’s and Sarah Savelli’s Wonderland (a tap tribute to Stevie Wonder), Lane Alexander’s Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Barbara Phillips’ Third Coast Rhythm Project, and ZACH Scott Theatre’s Sophisticated Ladies featuring Jennifer Holliday, where he was nominated for the B. Iden Payne Award for “Best Ensemble Performance” for his duet with Matthew Shields. His tour credits include Michelle Dorrance's Dorrance Dance and The Blues Project, the east-coast touring Thank You, Gregory (a tribute to the late Gregory Hines) written and choreographed by Tony Waag of the American Tap Dance Foundation, and Acia Gray’s nationally-touring production of The Souls of Our Feet, where Tony shared the stage with tap masters Dianne Walker, Sarah Petronio, and Arthur Duncan of the Lawrence Welk Show. He has joined the illustrious faculty of LA Tap Fest, Rhythm in Fusion Festival (RIFF), Soul to Sole Festival, and Space City Tap Fest, teaching and performing alongside a docket of legendary dancers. Tony’s teaching credits include world-renowned Broadway Dance Center, STEPS on Broadway, Dallas Powerhouse, HYPE Dallas, and Tapestry Dance Academy. He is the Artistic Director of True Sound Rhythm Productions, True Sound Rhythm Fest—Houston’s only tap dance festival, and Director of TAProots (the resident youth tap ensemble at METdance).
Torya Beard is a New York-based creative consultant, choreographer, and producer specializing in dance and theater. She studied dance at The University of Michigan and toured as a dancer with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, David Rousseve/Reality, The Kevin Wynn Collection, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Earl Mosley’s Diversity of Dance, Deeply Rooted Chicago Dance Theatre, and the National Tour of Donald Byrd’s The Harlem Nutcracker, and performed in “Idlewild” starring Outkast. Theater credits: Broadway; "Disney’s The Lion King" (swing, dance captain, understudy Sarabi); Favorite regional: "The Wiz," Arkansas Repertory Theater. Teaching: Salina Arts and Humanities Council, Tokyo School of Music, College of Mount St. Vincent, Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center, Hinton Battle Youth Academy and Broadway Classrooms & more. Creative Director: A BroaderWay Foundation, Original Tap House. Recent projects: Classical Theatre of Harlem’s "The First Noel" (Associate Choreographer), “While I Have The Floor,” & "Jesus Christ SuperStar - In Concert,” (Producer). Upcoming: Idina Menzel 2017 world tour (Creative Director) Ayodele Casel’s “While I Have The Floor” (Producer).
Danny Nielsen is originally from Calgary, AB, he began his rhythm tap career as a founding member of MADD Rhythms Canada under the direction of Lisa La Touche. In his hometown, Danny was hired by the highly regarded jazz company Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, which lead to having featured choreographies in their productions of Tinge and Tone and 25. In 2010, Danny became the ‘Artist in Residence’ at the Vancouver Tap Society, where he directed the boys program, the girls program, and youth ensemble Tap Co with the Society for 2 years. During his time in Vancouver, Danny was a part of many productions including A Chronological Life Story of a Few Tap Dancers with Matt Shields and Travis Knights, Stark Pulse with Jessie Sawyers, and the original tap dancer in the creation of Taps and Twang with the Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble. In 2012, Danny was the recipient of the Santa Aloi Award from the Scotiabank Dance Centre. He later used the grant to create and direct his first full length production Love.Be.Best.Free. In his time in Vancouver, Danny emerged onto the international tap scene, making his presence felt in Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, Chicago, Mexico, Seattle and all over Canada. He has taught for distinguished dance festivals and conventions such as the Zurich Tap Festival, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Triple Threat, DC Tap Fest, and Brasil Tap Jazz to name a few. Television credits include the worldwide broadcast of the 2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies and the opening number for the 2008 Jerry Lewis Telethon choreographed by Chloe Arnold in Las Vegas, NV.
Ayodele Casel began her professional training at NYU Tisch and is a graduate of The William Esper Studio. Hailed by Gregory Hines as “one of the top young tap dancers in the world,” Ms. Casel has created commissions for Harlem Stage, the Apollo Theater’s Salon Series, and Lincoln Center. Ms. Casel co-choreographed and was featured on the PBS special The Rodgers & Hart Story. Other TV/Film: Third Watch, Law & Order, The Jamie Foxx Show, Bojangles, and Savion Glover’s Nu York. She has performed with Gregory Hines, Jazz Tap Ensemble, and American Tap Dance Orchestra. Ms. Casel was the only female in Savion Glover’s company NYOTs and recently performed in his work STePz. Ms. Casel is a founding director of Original Tap House and Operation:Tap. She is on the faculty of A BroaderWay, and LA DanceMagic. She has appeared on the cover of Dance Spirit, American Theatre, and The Village Voice.
Jason Samuels Smith
Jason Samuels Smith is an established leader for Tap with accolades as Choreographer, Performer, and Humanitarian. He received an Emmy, Dance Magazine Award, and American Choreography Award as well as grants/residencies supporting the development of new work. Choreography and film credits include "Black Nativity" (associate tap choreographer/security guard #1); Hit Series Psych; CBS's Secret Talents of the Stars (MYA); "So You Think You Can Dance"; Dancing with the Stars; UPAJ: Improvise; Dean Hargrove's "Tap Heat"; Outkast's s"Idlewild"; Debbie Allen's "Cool Women." Stage Credits include Soul Possessed (leading role); Broadway's Bring in Da'Noise, Bring in Da'Funk (principal/lead roles); Imagine Tap! (leading role). He continues to tour worldwide as a soloist and with his company and various projects at premier venues which included Award-winning collaboration co-starring Kathak Master Pandit Chitresh Das, JaJa Productions Band, and A.C.G.I. amongst others. Most recently, Jason performed as a special guest with Lalah Hathaway, appeared in an internationally televised documentaries on Fred Astaire, and Award-winning Tap World (Executive Consultant); and was featured in RED Magazine (UK). As a humanitarian, he continues to support organizations including Dancers Responding to AIDS, Tied to Greatness, Career Transitions for Dancers, Tap Into A Cure, Groove with Me, and Move the World among others. He also designed and developed a leading professional tap shoe sold exclusively by BLOCH. Jason aims to promote respect for tap dance and continues to create opportunities for upcoming generations as he continues to travel as an ambassador for tap around the world.
B’JŌN CARTER is an interdisciplinary artist from Long Beach, California. He began dance training at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, CA, where he was mentored by Jason Samuels-Smith and Chloe Arnold. B’Jōn performed with the Kennedy Tap Company, under Arlene Kennedy and trained with Professor Ardie Bryant. He has also performed with the Jazz Tap Ensemble and Tapestry Dance Company. B’Jōn has taught and performed around the world, participating in arts festivals, workshops and intensives throughout the US, Canada, Australia, Azerbaijan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. In 2015, B’Jōn performed at the inaugural European Olympic Games. Stepping outside of performance, he has also served as an arts ambassador for the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. B’Jōn studied Arts Education in World Arts and Cultures/Dance at the University of California, Los Angeles and was a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. In addition to dance, B’Jōn also produces original music under the pseudonym "BRTHA 3" and is the owner of “CLDGPRKBEATS” publishing.
Jason E. Bernard is a native of The Bronx, New York. At the age of 17 Jason made his Broadway debut in The Tony Award Winning Musical "Bring In 'Da Noise, Bring In 'Da Funk". Three years later Jason appeared in the Broadway, National and International productions of "Riverdance". He was a featured performer in the Showtime original movie "Bojangles" Starring Gregory Hines and he also appeared as J. Bunny in The Spike Lee Film "Bamboozled". Most recently Jason appeared in "Cotton Club Parade" at City Center Encores! ( "After Midnight" On Broadway ). Jason is a faculty member at Broadway Dance Center where he teaches weekly Tap classes. Jason continues to travel the world performing teaching Dance and he is a judge for numerous Dance Conventions. Jason feels truly Blessed to be able to share the gift of Rhythm with the world.
Dianne "Lady Di" Walker
DIANNE "LADY DI" WALKER is one of a handful of internationally acclaimed women in the field of tap dance. Over the course of her career, she has been honored with numerous awards including several for lifetime achievements in Dance. She has performed with tap masters Gregory Hines, Steve Condos, Jimmy Slyde and her mentor, Leon Collins to name a few. Performances include the Tony award- winning "Black and Blue" in New York and in Paris, and as the assistant choreographer/dance captain, she helped to remount the show prior to the new European and American tours. As a soloist, she performs constantly in clubs, jazz festivals and tap festivals across the U.S. and abroad. Dianne's film credits include the movie "Tap", the PBS special "Great Performances: Tap Dance in America,” the PBS production of BLACK AND BLUE directed by Robert Altman; PBS Great Performances- ”Tap Dance in America”; Documentary, “Honi Coles, The Class Act of Tap”; Documentary, “Songs Unwritten...Leon Collins” and as the principal commentator in the PBS release of “JUBA." Ms. Walker holds a Master's degree in Education and has taught at Harvard, Williams College, the University of Michigan, UCLA, Bates, Wesleyan and on numerous other campuses. She has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council Jacobs Pillow, and the New England Foundation for the arts. She was a participant in the Dance USA Task Force on Dance Education and in 1997 represented the United States as an adjudicator for the World Tap Dance Championships held in Dresden, Germany. She is on the board of several tap dance organizations and was appointed, by the governor of Massachusetts, to a seat on the board of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a post she held for 10 years. Mrs. Walker is currently Artistic Director of “TapDancin, Inc." located in Boston, MA, while working in conjunction with schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Tokyo, Japan.