A passion for tapping

FOR Jo Summerfield tap dancing is far more than a bit of fancy footwork, it is creating music with you feet . Your feet are an instrument, whether that is dancing a cappella and creating the whole music or dancing with music and contrasting or enhancing

FOR Jo Summerfield tap dancing is far more than a bit of fancy footwork, it is "creating music with you feet".

"Your feet are an instrument, whether that is dancing a cappella and creating the whole music or dancing with music and contrasting or enhancing the rhythm of the music," she said.

This passion for tapping helps explain why the 36-year-old mum-of-two from Turnpike Lane, Ickleford, has established a career in dance, from teaching it to writing about it to organising events for dancers from all over the country.

Jo started dancing aged three, beginning with ballet and then taking up tap.

Ballet later fell by the wayside so Jo could concentrate on her real love.

She has tapped ever since, apart from a break of a few years when she was at college.

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Tap has been firmly back in her life for a number of years now, and her day-to-day life is pretty much dominated by this energetic dance form.

As well as helping out another teacher at classes in Clifton, Jo started her own adult classes three years ago, and decided to set up children's classes this September.

"They're going really well. The children that are coming along are really enjoying it," she said.

"One thing they like is that it's just a tap class so they're not made to do another dance discipline."

The children are also undoubtedly enjoying Jo's unique philosophy on dance.

She said: "With children one of my aims is that they're allowed to express themselves.

"One of the things that I want to make sure I do is a lot of free work.

"I think it is also really, really important that children are allowed to develop their individuality in dance."

Not content with working with local tappers of all ages, Jo has been involved with Associated Tap Dancers (previously known as Amateur Tap Dancers) since 2004.

ATD is an organisation for adults who tap for fun and hosts events all over the country.

It organises "dancers' days out" throughout the year, aiming to cover as much of the country as possible.

Next year it will run 14 events nationally, ranging from as far north as York to as far south as Exeter.

"Unless you live in the far flung corners hopefully there's something within a 50-mile radius of you," Jo said.

The weekends consist of workshops with teachers or special guests. Previous guests have included one of the dancers from hit show Tap Dogs.

TapUK is another of ATD's projects.

This is a weekend of dance workshops which this year attracted 120 tappers to the Isle of Wight.

As well as tap the weekend usually offers another type of dance, with swing and lindy hop workshops proving a big hit this year.

Jo said: "It was just such a lovely atmosphere, we all ate together and had evening events together.

"I'd like to do it every weekend!"

Jo also turns her hand to writing, penning regular features in the magazine Dance Expression.

"It's really anything that I think people might be interested in. I'll do reviews of shows and interviews with people," she said.

One of her star interviewees to date has been Junior Laniyan, a dancer and actor who has appeared in Holby City and also on stage with Robbie Williams.

So how does Jo find time to fit all of this in, along with taking care of sons Andrew, 13, and Daniel, 10?

"My family are superb. They are brilliant, absolutely brilliant. My husband's got a busy job as well but he'll come home at 3pm on a Tuesday [Jo's busiest teaching day] to be here for the kids," she said.

Jo said that with programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing proving popular, the rest of the country is beginning to catch on to the benefits and fun to be had from dancing.

"Strictly Come Dancing has done amazing things for the dance world, not just for ballroom, but for the dancing world in general.

"People are becoming more aware that it's out there and available and they're saying that it's quite cool, especially men.

"I think in the last few years the nation does seem to have embraced dance a little bit more.

"Certainly in recent years most dance teachers I know have seen an increase and particularly in their adult classes."

# Jo's classes take place at Ickleford and Holwell village halls. For more information, ring her on 01462 625259, email info@ jstapacademy.co.uk, or visit www.jstapacademy.co.uk For more information on ATD log on to www.tapuk.freeserve.co.uk