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"Molodyezh Estonii" April 25, 2003
Jekaterina Rodina


Music of The Feet

Tomorrow the tap dance studio of Alexander Ivashkevich “Duff Tap” will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. The best voices and legs of Broadway have come to congratulate their colleague. They have been following the development of the first and the only professional tap dance studio in Estonia since its rise.

“There are two more tap dance schools in Tallinn”, Alexander said to our newspaper. “For some reasons they don’t want to learn and the arrival of such unique specialists has not interested them. They also organize tap festivals and even suppose they are international, though”. This was also a surprising fact for the masters. “We are here and ready to show and teach why don’t they want to be trained?”

Someone’s always there that will train. In Alexander Ivashkevich`s opinion, even the popular Riverdance show can’t be compared with his guests` dances. “It is the leading group of dancers and pedagogues in the world who have achieved everything by themselves” – that is the way Broadway stars were introduced.

Tony Waag is a famous New York producer and the organizer of the biggest Tap Dance Festival in the world. Together with Brenda Buffalino he has organized Woodpecker’s tap dance center. Max Pollak is of Austrian origin; he had learned in the New York conservatories, clubs and on its streets. Being an acknowledged pedagogue all over the world, this dancer was the first one who united tap dance with Afro-Cuban rhythms. Mary Illes, the wife of Max, has been singing in such famous Broadway musicals as “Cats” or “Sunset Boulevard” for 12 years.

Walter “Sundance” Freeman is already known to Tallinn’s audience by the Riverdance show. He has performed with such stars as Nicholas brother, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeffrey Osborn during his career. The main guest of Alexander Ivashkevich is, undoubtedly, his first-hand teacher Barbara Duffy. Ivashkevich`s studio is named in her honor. She is one of the best dancers in the world who has nowadays a representative group from different parts of the world – from USA as well as from Brazil or from Germany.

The best tap dancers in the world assure unanimously that it is never late to start studying this dance. There is no age limits and even vice versa, the dancer increases/augments his potential yearly. Buster Brown, for example had been tapdanced the end of his life, which was at the age of 89. Alexander Ivashkevich had also started only at 28. “And was extremely successful” – the pupil is praised by Barbara Duffy. Taking into account difficult circumstances of the studio’s existence, his progress as a teacher and a dancer is simply unique”. Barbara thinks that Alexander has developed his own style during these 10 years.

It is generally agreed among the admirers of tap there are as many different styles as there are dancers. Max Pollak thinks that it is impossible to be a good performer only imitating your idol’s technique. “It is already done by your idol and repeating is not interesting. It is better to find anything of your own”. Max said that the audience should wait for anything unexpected. Nevertheless, the dancers had lifted the veil of secrecy and shared some ideas.

Barbara and Max have staged a dance in honor of their pedagogues based on the tap masters` choreography. In addition, Max Pollak who is keen on Afro-Cuban music will show a seance of the simultaneous tap dance and drum play. His body will serve as a drum. He has played a solo on his throat as proof of his talent to the applause of his colleagues.

Max’s wife, Mary is now improvising, trying to be at once on the stage and with her daughter Caroline who, according to Max, has been dancing rumba since she was 3 months old. During the performance (Mary is going to sing in duet with Alexander Ivashkevich), Max’s mother will be looking after the granddaughter.

Walter Freeman said that he would probably have nothing to do after such a stellar company’s performance, except for falling down and crawling away to backstage. Actually, Walter is preparing a special surprise for the spectators and again in duet with Ivashkevich.

Barbara Duffy has prepared a performance with Tony Waag besides her duet with Max Pollak. They have restored the number, which was first shown in Estonia in 1992. “That time only Alexander was able to dance more or less among those who came to our workshop”, remember Tony and Barbara. If Barbara has inclination to artistry and shows her inner life in dance, then Tony is a tap comedian.

Tony is sincerely devoted to the twenties of last century, comedy and vaudeville. “I am a singing dancer, I like singing even more than dancing, ok, it is a joke” answers Tony to the amazed looks of his colleagues. Tony Waag adores laughing and makes the audience laugh by his dancing sketches. Every Tony’s dance is an anecdotal story.

The concert of foreign masters will take place in the Russian Drama Theatre on the 27th of April at 19.00. The day before, on the 26th of April, Duff Tap Studio will be celebrating its 10th jubilee. Ivashkevich`s pupils (2 boys and 68 girls), Alexander himself and his mentor Barbara Duffy will be on the stage this evening. Apart from the dance of present dancers during this show, it will be possible to enjoy the videos of professionals who were unable to come to Estonia.