By Erin O'Connor

He walked onstage – a straight-legged, up-shouldered, plaid-shirted, short-haired, regular-looking white boy. Then he blew me away.

Tap dance is not easy. In its true essence, it is more music than movement; more ear candy than visual delight or stimulation. This is because the dancer has four taps (heel and toe of each foot) to generate intricate rhythms while actually bearing the weight of the body. If you have to think about weight transfer to free up the “other foot” to make a sound, you will never be a tap dancer. 

You must have innate musicality, an ability to channel the rhythm you are singing in your head instantly and directly to your feet. No time for thought process or intentional muscle movement. You must be intimately present, attuned and insanely connected to your own sound while channeling and connecting to the timing and rhythms of the music and musicians around you.

Creating a barrage of intricate sound and rhythm means your feet are most certainly underneath your body and there is little travelling through space. The sound does that work for you. For me, the test of a genius tap dancer is when I close my eyes and listen to the impeccable rhythm of the taps as they mingle, meld and merge with the music in perfect time. This happened last night with Danny Nielsen….but, things went even one step further. A jazz afficionado colleague sitting beside me also opened her eyes and smiled at the end of a tune and said, “For a moment there, I thought I was listening to Chuck Green.”

For tap dancers, one of THE ultimate compliments…..Danny Nielsen has the stuff of tap greatness.


Erin O’Connor, Managing Director of Contemporary Calgary and still a tap dancer at heart.