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"Den za Dnyom" 2004


You Can`t Dance Without a Smile

The Russian Drama theatre actor, Alexander Ivashkevich reminded his pupils about the importance of a smile, opening another dancing season in Duff Tap Studio.

However, what does it mean: opening the season? Of course, no announcements were made about it. Children simply came after summer vacation to one of the halls in the Russian theatre. As usual put on shoes with metal on toes and hills. But didn’t begin training right away. “Chat a bit here,” Alexander said, “while I have a snack, read in English…”

The studio of this particularly peculiar dance has been existing in Tallinn for eleven years already. Some say, it is the only one in all Baltic States. Why in Tallinn? Because, as the fates decree, almost twenty years ago Alexander Ivashkevich was taken in the troupe of the Russian theatre. A man of hunger as he wholeheartedly admits. Hungry for everything new. When being a four year old, he has already wanted to be an actor; then wanted to become a conductor; he liked uncles, standing in front of the orchestra and gesticulating. Then decided that he would be a stunt man and began to go in for karate training for it.

The same was with tap. Alexander got closely acquainted with it being in USA, the native land of this dance; and instantly got crazy about it. Of course, there were preconditions. His father had a habit to clap his knees with his palms, and those rhythmical sounds enchanted the boy. Later, in the theatre institute, he asked teachers of dancing, “And do you teach tap?” “No, we can’t,” he received as an answer. That’s why he had to learn himself, to find people, who got the knowledge about this dance. Years passed. Alexander Ivashkevich became the master of tap, he teaches other already. In different countries: USA, Great Britain, Sweden, Finland, Russia.

He has his own studio in Tallinn that begins another season. There will be another performances and trips and classes, classes, classes. Children that came today have been tap dancing for several years already. Naturally, not everything went smoothly from the beginning, some even wanted to give up, but now they don’t see themselves without tap. They can do a lot already. Moreover, some of them have “infected” their parents with this dance. So there really must be something special in it. It isn’t just a phrase that tap can be danced at any age. That is why the very dance gives liveliness of body and spirit.

Ivashkevich said that he was shocked in America, watching for the first time the art of dance masters who were older than 70 and even 80. While Alexander was away, children confessed that it is thanks to him they have such friendly atmosphere like they are one big family. However, they are sometimes even pity their teacher. They do know how busy he is – rehearsals, performances…When he comes to them out of the breath, it seems, that nothing but tap and them matters now. Somebody complained, however, that he was too demanding and worried too much, when it didn’t come the way he wanted.

It is easy to notice that the members of the Duff Tap Studio are mostly females. Unfortunately, boy is only one – Anton. Unfortunately, because tap dance is still a masculine dance mostly. Though, it is not necessarily so. For example, Barbara Duffy, Alexander Ivashkevich’s mentor, is a woman. The studio was named after her. Only this fact says what a big role Barbara played in Alexander`s life…

And here he appears. Well, let’s begin? The first class after the vacation wasn’t ordinary. It was a repeating of old stuff. A few numbers, already polished to the tiniest details that were performed a lot of times. By the way, it takes one or even two years to prepare only one dance. “And smile, smile!” Alexander instructed his pupils. “You can’t tap dance without a smile!” Meanwhile, the speed of the dance can be simply crazy, for example the dance that showed Anton and Zhenja. “Please, give us water!” they asked, sweaty, after finishing their performance.

Tap dance is probably a good stress reliever. Of course, only if you have a place to dance without a problem of getting into a conflict with your neighbors. And, of course, if you are good at it…By the way, is it possible for everybody to dance it? The feeling of rhythm must be excellent, isn’t it? And eurhythmics must be also… “Most children and grownups do have problems with these,” Alexander says. “Happens, you ask a beginner to clap his hands in definite order – can’t do it. But despite this, the features needed for tap can be developed. And anyone can master it at one or another level.”

Tap is, of course, close to sport, but only by workload. “Dancing technique is only a part of dance. You definitely need for something to be here also,” Alexander says, putting his hand on his chest. “I am an actor. Tap is similar to acting where you put a part of your soul into a performance.” Almost everybody was gone. Two remained, tried to make something. “You must to do it this way,” Alexander said, showing the steps.

It seemed the rough work on the new number was only beginning.