2016 Faculty

Dianne Walker

Dianne “Lady Di” Walker, a pioneer in tap dancing’s resurgence, has a 40 year career spanning Broadway, Television, Film and International Jazz Concerts and Tap Festivals. Savion Glover and his contemporaries affectionately call her, “Aunt Dianne,” acknowledging her unique role as mentor, teacher and confidante. Dianne performed in both the original Paris Production of Black and Blue as well as the Broadway Production, where she was a featured dancer, dance captain and assistant to the directors. Film credits include the movie Tap, the PBS special, Great Performances: Tap Dance in America, JUBA! (WTTW), and Songs Unwritten. Dianne has been dubbed the “Ella Fitzgerald” of Tap Dance.

For two years, Dianne directed the Tap Program at Jacobs Pillow and is presently Artistic Advisor to the Program. Holding a Master’s degree in Education, Dianne has taught at numerous universities including Harvard, MIT, Wesleyan, Bates, UCLA, and Williams College. Dianne is a participant on many educational task forces and sits on numerous boards throughout the dance community. In 1998, Dianne received the “Living Treasure in American Dance” Award from Oklahoma City University, The Flo-Bert Award (NYC), The Hoofers Award (NYC), The Gregory Hines Humanitarian Award (Los Angeles), and was the 2008 USA Rose Fellow. Most recently, Dianne received the prestigious Dance Magazine Award, presented at the Alvin Ailey School in New York, adding to a long line of awards and lifetime tributes recognizing her contribution to the art form and excellence in teaching. Grant awards include The National Endowment for the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Jacobs Pillow, The New England Foundation for the Arts, and American Masterpieces Program.

Dianne has been generously mentored by many musicians and Tap dance legends throughout her career, notably Leon Collins and Jimmy Slyde. Dianne has worked with Savion Glover, Jimmy Slyde, Buster Brown, Gregory Hines, Honi Coles, Cholly Atkins, Tina Pratt, Barry Harris, Max Roach, Alan Dawson, Major Holley, Ruth Brown, Nicholas Brothers, Peg Leg Bates, Arthur Duncan, and many others. Leon Collins passed away in l985, leaving Dianne to continue as one of the Directors of his school in Boston. It is with a great sense of pride that she continues to share this rich legacy with her students.

Katherine Kramer

A performer, choreographer, educator, producer and writer. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Grant, an Artist’s Innovation Award from the Montana Arts Council, a Creation Fund Grant from the National Performance Network, and an Al Smith Choreographic Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council and numerous Artist Access Grants from the Miami-Dade County Dept. of Cultural Affairs. She has built a long standing career performing as both a contemporary and jazz tap dancer, collaborating, improvising and sharing the stage with many outstanding dancers and musicians, including the late tap masters, Honi Coles and Gregory Hines and her mentor, Brenda Bufalino.

Her one-woman show, Rhythms of the Heart, toured from 1992 – 2000 and she has been seen and heard at dance and music festivals here and abroad, including Sitka Jazz Festival, Soul 2 Sole Festival, Discover Jazz Festival, Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival, Tap Rio and Tapcity in NY. Her broad range of choreography has often been based on unique and multi disciplinary collaborations, as with her 10 projects commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami for Cuban-born visual artist, Pablo Cano, her Stop Look Listen project, featuring six musicians, 2 tap dancers and 2 contemporary dancers, Dawn to Dusk, a screen dance directed by Susannah Newman, and Rhythms of Helena, a two-year multi-disciplinary community building project based in Helena, MT.  She has created choreography for universities, dance and theatre companies, television and film, including working as choreographer and movement coach for Robert Redford on his film, The Horse Whisperer.

Over many years as an educator, Katherine has developed a specialty in coaching dancers in musicality and musicians in physicality.  She has developed a training method, Whole Body Music, which has been shared with countless dancers, as well as jazz and classical musicians, including clinics with the New World Symphony in Miami, FL. For the past decade she has worked as a mentor and coach with the prestigious national organization, Youngarts, supporting a new generation of young people making their way into their professional careers as artists.  She has had the unique honor of conducting tap workshops in Havana, Cuba for Danza Contemporarea and Conjunto Folklorica de Cuba, and in Fortaleza, Brazil worked with Valeria Pinheiro and Co. Vata.

From 1996 until 2007 Katherine was founder, producer and artistic director of an annual summer music and dance festival, Rhythm Explosion, in Bozeman, MT, which included many outstanding artists, including the late Jimmy Slyde and Daniel Nagrin, as well as tap divas, Brenda Bufalino, Sarah Petronio and Dianne Walker. The festival brought together international performers and students to celebrate the art of jazz music and dance and it’s root forms.   Over many years she has produced concerts and multi-disciplinary events in New York, Kentucky, Florida and Montana. Katherine’s writing has been published by the International Tap Association, Attitude Magazine and the Grove Dictionary of Music. A gypsy at heart and currently based in Madison, WI, Katherine is at work developing a multi-year writing/video/performance project, Taproot, which traces the footsteps and tells the stories of an itinerant dancer and the “wagon train” of friends supporting her journey.

Derick Grant

A native of Boston, Derick K. Grant has been tapping for 28 years. He was an original company member and Dance Captain for Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk at both The Joseph Papp Public Theater /New York Shakespeare Festival and on Broadway. Derick recreated Savion Glover’s choreography and starred in the role of ‘da beat for the first National Tour.

Derick began his training at the age of two at The Roxbury Center for the Performing Arts. By the time he was eight years old, he had learned the “hoofin” style of tap from master tap dancer Dianne Walker. Derick furthered his training in Los Angeles at Universal Dance Design Studio under the tutelage of Paul Kennedy. Derick spent three years with the Jazz Tap Ensemble touring the world. He is the recipient of the PrincessGrace Award for Upcoming Young Artists and The Helen Hayes Award (Washington D.C.) for Outstanding featured Actor for his role in Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk.

Derick was featured at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts African Odyssey program, part of the Expresiones Latinas Festival. He collaborated on a piece that incorporated tap and capoeira with renowned Brazilian artist Nego Gato, which opened the festivities for singer Daniella Mercury. He also choreographed and performed in a piece on the history of tap that launched the Black History Month 2001 celebration at Aaron Davis Hall. Recent compositions were featured in The Queens Symphony Opera’s Duke Ellington Concert in Ann Arbor’s Arts Festival. Most recently Derick’s own creation A Night Out: Tap! toured the country for three months. Of his latest choreography and performance with Jazz Tap Ensemble at the Joyce Theatre in NYC, the New York Times said, ”Mr. Grant let gusts of rhythm propel him with remarkable velocity!”

Tasha Lawson

Tasha Lawson is the founder and Artistic Director of Tri-Tone Productions. Tri-Tone houses a pre-professional rhythm ensemble, a youth ensemble and an adult ensemble. An alumna of Grant Mac Ewan College’s Dance Teacher Training and Dance Performance programs, Ms. Lawson continued her studies at Simon Fraser University, in New York, San Francisco and Brazil.

For six years Ms. Lawson was a Principal Dancer with Tapestry Dance Company based out of Austin, Texas. She was nominated for Dancer of the Year by the Austin Critics Table Awards in 2007 for her performance in Acia Gray’s “Souls of Our Feet, a Tribute to American Tap Dance.” Serving as the Artistic Director of Tapestry’s apprentice Company, Visions In Rhythm, from 2002-2008, Ms. Lawson directed six full-length concert works and toured the ensemble to San Antonio and Chicago. Ms. Lawson has performed and taught at the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Vancouver International Tap Festival, Third Coast Rhythm Project, Sole to Soul, Tap into a Cure, MADD Rhythms Canada, Festival Danse Encore, Brazil’s Le Biennale De Dance, and Tanzhaus Festival in Dusseldorf. She was a faculty member for the first Jacob’s Pillow Tap residency in 2010 under the direction of Dianne Walker and recently presented work at the International Body Music Festival, performing alongside Keith Terry, Raul Cabrera and Brian Dyer.

Tasha has had the great privilege of experiencing and working with legendary tap artists such as Dr. Arthur Duncan, Dr. Fayard Nicholas, Dr. Harold Cromer, Dr. Jeni LeGon, Dianne Walker, Roxanne Butterfly, Heather Cornell, Brenda Buffalino, Max Pollak and Sarah Petronio among others. She has been an artist-in-residence for numerous Universities and Professional Training Programs and frequently delivers body music classes in Las Vegas for Cirque Du Soleil. Tasha’s work with Cirque’s Las Vegas performers led to an opportunity to serve as Assistant Artistic Director for their KOOZA production, where she toured with the company throughout the US and Japan.

Nicholas Young

Nicholas Young is a New York City-based dancer, musician, and choreographer, most recently a cast member of the off-Broadway sensation STOMP. Nicholas performed the lead role for both the touring and New York companies, acted as rehearsal director for the American tour, and is grateful to have spent more than nine years total as an integral part of the show.

Nicholas began his professional career at the age of sixteen as a part of the innovative multiform Tapestry Dance Company of Austin, TX. Under the direction of Founders Acia Gray and Deirdre Strand, he eventually moved to the positions of Principal Dancer and Resident Choreographer. While in Austin he was awarded “Best Male Dancer” in 2001 and “Best Choreography” in 2003 by the Austin Critics Council. Since moving to New York, Nicholas has performed with Manhattan Tap, Rumba Tap, Hoofing to Hitting with Jared Grimes, “Jazz in Motion” with Sarah and Leela Petronio in Paris, and most recently, with Michelle Dorrance’s company, Dorrance Dance, in her critically acclaimed work, “Sound Space.” Brian Seibert of the New York Times stated: “…But the height of virtuosity came in a late body-percussion solo by Nicholas Young. Snapping, clapping, stomping and clicking his tongue, Mr. Young played the church with his body, a one-man band juggling two or three rhythms at once, developing a sophisticated composition within Ms. Dorrance’s.”

Mr. Young has been a featured percussionist with Cyro Baptista’s fusion Brazilian ensemble Beat The Donkey and drummer for Indi-pop star Darwin Deez, touring throughout North and South America, Europe, and Japan. His original compositions and productions were included in the newly released tap dance documentary “Tap or Die,” directed by Jackie Pare’. Nicholas has been a Master Teacher for festivals world-wide teaching tap and body percussion for Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Soul to Sole, New York’s Tap City, Stockholm Tap Festival, and many others. He recently premiered his New York-based dance company SoundMovement in which Trina Mannino for Dance Enthusiast wrote “The most ground-breaking use of rhythm was found in Sound- Movement Dance Company’s environments.” Nicholas is currently working on a collaboration with Bessie Award winner Michelle Dorrance for the Jacobs Pillow 2014 season.

Danny Nielsen

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’ with the Vancouver Tap Society. He held the position for 2 years, directing the boys program, the girls program, and youth ensemble Tap Co with the Society. 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 the spring of 2012, Danny was the recipient of the Santa Aloi Award from the Scotiabank Dance Centre. He later used that 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. Danny recently finished a 1-year contract with Tapestry Dance Company under the direction of Acia Gray.

Carson Murphy

Carson Murphy has had the fortune to travel the world tap dancing and working with incredible artists. Recent performances include ‘Jazz Tap Juction’ with Ayako Ukawa and Sarah Petronio in Tokyo, Japan; Tap the Yard at Martha’s Vineyard with Michelle Dorrance’s Dorrance Dance; ‘Thelonious’ by Sarah Petronio at Tap City NYC; the Spoleto Festival with Dorrance Dance; the Bessie Award winning ‘Thank you Forest’ with Nicholas Young’s SoundMovement, ‘Sem’elles’ with Leela Petronio’s Hip Tap Project.

Carson has danced at Jacob’s Pillow, the Dancespace series at St. Mark’s Church, Chicago Human Rhythm Project and the Joyce as a member of Michelle Dorrance’s “Dorrance Dance”. Carson also recently danced with the phenomenal Sarah Petronio, Leela Petronio and Nicholas Young in Sarah’s “Jazz in Motion”, in Les Ulis, France. Carson has also performed with and for – Ted Levy, Max Pollak’s “Rumba Tap”, Barbara Duffy and Company, Katherine Kramer, Mable Lee, Michela Marino-Lerman, Chloe Arnold’s “Syncopated Ladies”, Tap City, Josh Hilberman, Sarah Savelli, Ayodele Casel, was a part of the original recreation of Harold Cromer’s “Opus One”, toured the U.S. with Broadway’s “42nd Street”, has been seen dancing on Times Square’s JumboTron and has been featured in Dance Spirit Magazine. Carson is endlessly inspired by these artists and many more, and is eternally grateful to spend her life teaching and dancing. Carson is the owner and Director of Sound Movement Pilates and Gyrotonic ® in Larchmont, New York.