Twin Cities Tap Festival celebrates five years

Oct 16, 2019

The 2019 Twin Cities Tap Festival (TCTF) is this week, so we thought we’d give you a little background on the festival, tap dance in the Twin Cities and us, Brenna Brelie and Kaleena Miller, your TCTF co-directors.

Before we talk about the current festival iteration, we should give you some history. Previous to the Twin Cities Tap Festival, there was the Minneapolis Human Rhythm Project run by Ellen Keane and Cathy Wind of Keane Sense of Rhythm. And before that, Tappin’ in the Twin Cities, organized by Mary Collins, ran from 1995-2000. You can watch an insane clip from a forum hosted at Walker Art Center as part of the Tappin' in the Twin Cities Festival featuring Skip Cunningham, the Nicholas Brothers, Prince Spencer, Bunny Briggs, Buster Brown, Ernest Brown, Norma Miller, and Brenda Bufalino.

TCTF started in 2015, which means that this year’s festival marks five years! It’s been amazing to see the momentum grow over the past five years from our humble beginnings. We now have around 250 dancers from all over the country, of all ages, taking classes and workshops and sold out shows at Cowles Center for the past few years. Shout-out to everyone who has attended all 5 years!

Heck, these festivals aren’t even the biggest tap dance event the Twin Cities has seen! In October 1979, Beth Sartor Obermeyer organized an event that gathered 1,801 tap dancers to dance along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. The event landed in the 1981 Guinness Book of World Records!

Brenna Brelie, co-director of TCTF, has been dancing since the age of 3 and somehow found tap dance as her passion in her teenage years. She has performed, taught, and now curated tap dance for the better part of 20 years. Though she has a whole other professional life as the chief of staff at Pillsbury United Communities, dance has always been a passion. “Kaleena and I have been friends for a long time,” she says, “and following many brainstorm sessions after teaching, we decided to launch the Twin Cities Tap Fest 5 years ago, pulling together friends and partners in the dance community who we knew would be supportive. Now 5 years later, I’m awed at where we’ve come. And I couldn’t wish for a better co-consiprator.”

Kaleena Miller, co-director of TCTF, is director of Kaleena Miller Dance (professional tap dance company) and KMD2 (pre-professional tap dance company), co-chair of the Dance Program at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists and teaching specialist in the Dance Program at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. She is absolutely thrilled the Twin Cities Tap Fest has grown to what it is today!

So here we are in 2019, co-presenting with Northrop to bring in one of the most exciting tap dance companies to hit the stage, Dorrance Dance! Their performances are always outstanding and we also have the privilege of having their company members teach at the festival while they’re in town. It’s a wonderful partnership and we’re grateful for Northrop’s support of the Twin Cities Tap Festival. We hope you’ll come check it out!

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