Thanks to the Tap Dancing Hands Down® system from choreographer and former Rockette Mary Six Rupert, people with a lower-limb disability can tap dance with gloves on their hands that have taps attached. Instead of dancing on a wooden floor, dancers tap on a small wooden board sitting on a table or on their lap.
Rupert, a former professor of tap and jazz at Wagner College on Staten Island, invented Tap Dancing Hands Down when her mother, also a career dancer, suffered a stroke and could no longer walk.
After connecting with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City to offer a special class using the sytem, Rupert took it one step further in 2016 and founded a dance company called Tap: On Tap, an all-abilities tap ensemble. The ensemble integrates able-bodied tap dancers with disabled tap dancers and incorporates feet and hand tapping.
“I had always wanted to expand the use of Tap Dancing Hands Down and give my Tap Dancing Hands Down students the opportunity to dance in a professional tap company,” she said. “It is also good for audiences to experience people with different abilities all tap dancing together.”
While Rupert hasn’t had an amputee dancer in the Tap: On Tap ensemble, she would welcome any amputee who is interested in learning Tap Dancing Hands Down either in a private lesson capacity or as a member of the Tap: On Tap ensemble.
“They would certainly fit well into the mission of this tap company,” she said.
Rupert hopes to expand the company to include a larger range of disabilities, increase repertoire, and find more opportunites for the dancers to perform.
While the Tap: On Tap esemble is based in New York City, Rupert says she has done some teaching over Skype.
“Now that Zoom is so popular, I am thinking about offering training classes on Zoom,” she said.
For more information on either the Tap Dancing Hands Down system or the Tap: On Tap ensemble, contact Mary Six Rupert at [email protected].