Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival
The 2020 Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival takes place online from August 24 through August 30.

With the pandemic continuing to wreak havoc with festivals and live performances around the world, the Vancouver Tap Dance Society has embraced technology to deal with physical distancing requirements. It is the reason it will offer the 21st edition of its Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival.

"If you've never taken a tap class before, this is the perfect opportunity in a safe space in your home." - Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival production manager Tosh Sutherland.
“If you’ve never taken a tap class before, this is the perfect opportunity in a safe space in your home.” – Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival production manager Tosh Sutherland.

But even with investments in upgraded networks, computers and high-definition cameras in its studios, it isn’t the technology that has been the Festival’s biggest challenge this year.

“The biggest challenge we’ve had is the scheduling issues of all the different time zones,” says festival production manager Tosh Sutherland. “Anyone around the world can participate as long as they are okay with the time zone shift.”

It is this global reach that has organizers most excited. Unlike past years where instructors and students would have to gather in Vancouver physically, by going online, participants can Zoom in from anywhere in the world.

It will mean the audience for such guests as American Tap Dance Foundation 2019 Hoofer Award-winner Michela Marino Lerman will be potentially that much more significant.

“We’re very excited to be welcoming Michela, who has not been part of the Festival before, to Vancouver even if it is virtually,” says Sutherland. “She is going to be teaching a five-day residency and teaching weekend workshops for all skill levels.”

Lerman is one of many guest artists who will focus on teaching over the ten-day Festival. Again, because of technology, Sutherland says it is an excellent way for even a beginner to experience what tap dancing is all about.

Tap dance artist, performer, choreographer, and educator Michela Lerman is one of the international guests at this year's Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival.
Tap dance artist, performer, choreographer, and educator Michela Lerman is one of the international guests at this year’s Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival.

“If you’ve never taken a chance to take a tap class before, this is the perfect opportunity in a safe space in your home,” he says. “It might be a little quick for someone who hasn’t tap danced before, but it will definitely be a good introduction.”

But while much of the seven-day Festival is aimed squarely at instruction, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something for tap audiences.

“What we would do in past years is what we call a gala event,” explains Sutherland. “It is a live event where all of our artists would perform, and the general public would come and enjoy tap dance.”

Of course, because of COVID-19, such a gathering is not possible. Instead, this year’s gala will be a live-stream of last year’s 20th-anniversary Festival.

“We didn’t intend to reuse it in this fashion, but we contacted the artists who all agreed it was a great way to share this free community event and bring our community together to celebrate tap dance,” says Sutherland.

Another way for non-dancers to get involved comes in the form of a weekday summit, bringing together leading tap dance researchers and practitioners.

“It is a way to explore tap dance more in-depth than a general audience is likely accustomed to,” says Sutherland. “These are people who have researched the people and the history behind tap dance, and because of the technology, we can bring researchers from around the world including England and America and can offer the more academic side of tap dance.”

The 2020 Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival takes place online from August 24 through August 30. Visit vantapfest.com for more information.