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Posted on October 6, 2015 in Five Minutes with...
Five Minutes with... Danny Nielsen

Danny Nielsen: photo Brad Jarvis

How did you get involved with tap dance? What was it about tap that appealed to you?

My older sister danced as a kid and I was constantly at the studio. So one day, I decided to sign up for class. I actually started with jazz (which I was horrible at) and the following year, tap. Tap felt a little more natural to me and it made more sense. At 12 or 13, I started watching footage. At that time, being a kid in a smaller town (Calgary) there wasn't much available, but I watched what was accessible. The movie Tap was probably my favourite and communicated something beyond what I was learning at the time. It showcased the style I referred to then as 'hoofing' (I am very adamant about being called a tap dancer now though), which focused more on the musicality of the dance and individual style. It was also my introduction and first time seeing some of the masters (Jimmy Slyde, Steve Condos, Bunny Briggs, amongst others). There was a scene where Gregory Hines was reluctantly auditioning for a Broadway show and the producer was telling him to smile and use his shoulders more which reminded me of what I was kind of doing at the time. He eventually told the piano player to play something different and improvised a killing solo. After seeing the way these men danced, I knew that's what I wanted to learn. I began seeking out the people (and continue to do so) who could teach me more about that style of dancing. I love that the dance will truly take a lifetime to master and I'm enjoying my journey along the way. 

What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of being a tap dancer? 

I think the connotation attached to tap dance. Most people aren't aware of the great and very modern work that people are creating in tap dance right now and have a pre-conceived idea of what it is. The biggest reward for me is seeing someone become aware of the dance and have their stereotypical view of it squashed, whether it’s me dancing or anyone pushing for the dance to be seen and heard. 

What is your proudest moment to date?

I don't think I can say there has been a single event that would be my proudest moment. I am extremely proud to call myself a tap dancer and be a part of something that is bigger than all of us. I am merely another soldier for the dance, continuing to fight for it and embracing all the hardships and joys it brings.

If you didn’t have a career in dance, what might you be doing?

I'd probably be in Alberta working as a tradesman with a lot more money than I have now! LOL. I could probably never do that to be honest, it would have to be something creative. I think I would want to be a DJ (and still do). I have a huge love for music and original samples.

What might people be surprised to know about you?

I am a HUGE hockey fan. Even though I will probably lose some audience members on this, GO FLAMES!!!

What is your next project?

I'm off to Toronto to do my friend Allison Toffan's show The Big Band Tap Revue. I'm extremely excited that genius Ted Levy will be directing and that the Toronto Jazz Orchestra is the band. After that, I am planning on going to NYC for a little while.


Danny Nielsen is a Vancouver-based tap dancer. Danny Nielsen & Friends is presented as part of our Discover Dance! noon series on October 22 at Scotiabank Dance Centre.

Photo: Brad Jarvis


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