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Studio tap dancing its way into La Jollans’ hearts

La Jolla will soon be home to San Diego’s only dance studio exclusively devoted to the art of tap dancing.

Tap Fever Studios, located on 7301 Girard Ave., will offer a vast array of different styles of tap dancing, from Broadway style to rhythm tap to the more current urban or hip-hop tap. It will also have classes for all ages, from preschoolers to senior citizens.

“There’s a lot of studios that have a mixture of things, such as tap, jazz, ballet, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But you don’t get very many options, and if you love tap, there’s no way to really grow with it or experience different styles,” said Larisa Hall, owner of Tap Fever Studios, which will begin classes April 1. Hall said, although there are other studios in San Diego that specialize in specific dance forms such as ballet or hip-hop, there was not a studio that was exclusively tap-oriented.

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Tap dancing is a uniquely American dance form that has its origins in the rhythms and movements of African dance brought to the United States by slaves, where it mingled with European percussive dancing such as Irish step and English clogging. Tap experienced its golden era from the 1920s to 1940s, and was showcased in movie musicals with notable stars such as Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the Nicholas Brothers and Ann Miller. Today, dance is undergoing a revival with shows such as “Dancing With the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” which are viewed by millions. Recently, the hit movie “Happy Feet” featured tap dancing when famous tap dancer Savion Glover recorded the lead character’s footwork.

“I think all of those things factor into the popularity of tap, and I think now is a great time to bring it back. I don’t know why it ever went away,” said Hall.

Hall hopes the studio’s location will attract a broad spectrum of students. “It’s a fantastic location,” said Hall. “There’s an elementary school right next door, there’s a senior living facility right next door, there’s a bunch of great schools in the area. It’s a really great spot where I felt like I could reach the most people and a good variety of people.”

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When Hall was born, the doctors didn’t know if she would walk, much less dance, because of her clubbed feet. Her legs were put in casts for nine months, and when she was in kindergarten she began taking dance classes because a friend of hers was.

“I just loved it, and I wanted to keep going and going. In the beginning I did all kinds of dance, tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop. When I got to junior high and high school, I did more hip-hop. I tried some salsa, I tried some modern, I tried a little bit of everything,” said Hall. When her mother told Hall her dance classes were getting too expensive, Hall decided to focus on tap and has done so ever since. As a young adult she began substituting and later teaching, and found satisfaction in watching her students improve and being able to teach her own choreography. But upon moving to San Diego from the Bay Area, she found the city sorely lacking in tap classes, and so she began teaching. She soon began to consider quitting her day job as a segment producer for KUSI to open her own tap studio.

“When people would come [to her classes] they would say, ‘Man, I’ve been looking all over the place. I’ve had such a hard time finding a tap class. I didn’t even know you were here,’” said Hall.

To drum up interest in the studio and get people in the door, Hall is offering a special for the month of April where one can pay $30 for unlimited classes for the month.

“You can try out any class that you want and as many classes that you want,” said Hall. “My hope is that I will have people try it out, buy $30 for April, and try out a lot of classes, because there’s so much variety, so many different styles.”

Another unique aspect of the studio is pricing. Instead of charging month-to-month tuition, one can purchase classes in bulk, allowing you to only pay for the classes you attend. Hall feels this pricing method is fairer because it allows students to only pay for classes they actually attend.

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The facility has three studios, which are floored with maple wood. The floors are sprung, which prevents injuries. Tap Fever Studios also has 16 instructors on staff. Hall also hopes the studio will be able to do a significant amount of performing in the community and has classes geared toward that purpose. She also plans to put on an anniversary show every April where the entire studio will have the opportunity to perform. In addition, she plans to put on many smaller shows throughout the year to raise money for local charities.

“I think that will give students a good feeling about performing, that there’s a purpose for it,” she said.

Hall urges anyone who thinks they might not be able to tap but is interested to give her studio a try.

“I really want to get the message across that anybody can do it. People are hesitant about trying tap because they see it on TV or they see other people do it and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool, I love it, but not me, I’m never going to do that, I can’t do that,’” Hall said. “So anybody who says they can’t do it, I don’t believe it. Anybody can.”

For more information, visit www.tapfever.com or call 858-456-7301 or email info@tapfever.com.

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