The Knockturnal got to sit down with Emmy Award Winning Executive Producer/Director Dean Hargrove to chat about his upcoming feature length documentary “Tap World”!
Check out our exclusive chat below!
It’s not very often that Tap dance is highlighted in mainstream media. What made you want to take on the stories of Tap dancers and share them to the world?
Well I’m not a dancer, and I have never been a dancer. Like I think every audience [member] if you get to sit down and see Tap, you’re going to like it. It’s getting people to see it, which is part of why we are here and why we appreciate what you’re doing. We want to introduce, well re-introduce to people this amazing unique American art form. You know only Jazz and Tap are the two indigenous art forms, that were originated in the United States.
I worked in television for a very long time and it’s all been great but I went to film school and you know I thought “I didn’t go to film school to do Television although I have no complaints what-so-ever. I said what can I do?” Well I should do a short film but I didn’t have any ideas. And then it occurred to me that there is the traditional Tap and there’s the new Tap, influenced by hip-hop. It’s very contemporary, it’s very improvisatory. And I thought it might be interesting to do a short film in which you take these two great very distinct variations on the art form and you show them separately, put them in a challenge and then put them in a number. My script is about a page in a quarter because it’s no dialogue all dancing.
How did you get Chloe Arnold (Syncopated Ladies) and Maud Arnold to sign on to be a part of this project?
We traveled to Washington D.C. -there’s a Tap Festival there which was started in 2009. Maud and Chloe Arnold started the Tap fest and kept it going and made it into a big success. Now they’re star dancers themselves. Chloe has a thing called Syncopated Ladies which is a dance group which is now performing all over the world. So I reached out to them and said “We want to do this this film. It’s a documentary and we want it to be global.We want to show the globalization and the interconnection of dancers and people. They’re so travelled, they are so well known and they know how to work social media. They’re in contact with I don’t know how many thousands of people. But certainly every tap dancer in the world knows who they are.
Chloe left, Maud right
What was the transition like from the original short film “Tap Heat” to the feature length Tap World?
We shot the short film. We were very happy with the results. We went to a lot of festivals. It got shown all over the world. So with that I thought, there has to be a way to take this dance form and get it out there where people will see it. I know once they see it the’re going to love it, like they always have! It’s not in Television any more, it’s not in in film. Unless there’s Broadway where are you going to see it? So we had a few efforts to try to introduce it as a television series, which was a lot of work. A lot of encouragement but no one took us up on it. So then we traveled to japan and hot some dancers.We went to Gregory Hines and showed the script to him and he was very supportive. He (Hines) said, “You know everyone wants Savoyn (Glover) and I to do something and I’ve already got a script.” He was very helpful but turned us down. So we found a new dancer, a fellow named Jason Samuel Smith, who’s now a leading star tap dancer and also Artuhr Duncan I don’t know how old he is but he’s still working. It’s a long story but I will tell it since you asked…
Were you surprised by anything when shooting?
I was impressed by the fact that [Tap] dancers today are so aware of their roots. They are aware of the guys who came before and they pay homage to them. They recognize them, and they don’t forget them. Another thing I found interesting is that Hip-Hop is so predominant today. It’s a great dance form, it’s exciting but it’s not Tap. It doesn’t have the same rhythm components. A lot of Hip-Hop moves are very similar if you look at them. They don’t have the individuality, for me, that Tap does. And they don’t have the rhythm. When you talk to [Tap] dancers they will tell you, “I make my own music.” That’s what they are doing. They are making their own music. It’s a total personal expression and it’s totally emotional .
Do you have any advice for current students who would like to be in the entertainment industry, more specifically as a director?
If you’re a director, I think you have to go out and shoot a film. It’s not that hard to do anymore. People are making movies on iphones. It’s revolutionary. The whole revolution in photography is extraordinary. Anybody can go out and photograph and now they can make movies with these things. That’s what’s going to change the face of everything. They can do anything they want. If they’re a writer they got to write. [laughs] If you want to be a director, I think that’s the way you got to go about it. You have to show that you are a storyteller. They’re are a lot of great visual [artists] out there. But if you can go out and tell a story with good visuals then I think you’ve got a real chance of getting somewhere. Steven Spielberg started with a short film that he did at Long Beach State University, on the basis of that he got into Universal. After that he finally got some chances. I used him on his first long film that he ever did for television back in the last century! But it wholes true today. If you can go out and tell a story with good visuals then I think you’ve got a real chance of getting somewhere. It’s ultimately story telling that’s going to make it work for you.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I’m a devote of this art form. I want to make another Tap film!
Tap World is opening July 10th in select theaters nationwide.
Watch the trailer for Tap World below:
Photo Credit: Steven Poster, ASC and Chloe and Maud Productions
TAP WORLD will have a platform release, opens 7/10 NYC, DC, and Virginia, 7/17 Dallas, and 8/7 Los Angeles.