By Lauren Squires, Director of Movement Afoot
Janelle Maur is a tap dancer and educator, musician, communications professional and member of Movement Afoot, Columbus’ only all-tap dance company. This month the company presents its third annual concert, Rhythm Studies, Apr. 27-28 at the Van Fleet Theatre.
Lauren: When did you start tap dancing, and what has your evolution been as a tap dancer?
Janelle: I grew up in the Akron area and have been tap dancing since I was six years old. Like many people, I stopped after graduating high school when I “aged out” of youth dance classes, as that’s all that was offered in my area at the time. Then I moved to Westerville to attend Otterbein University to study Music Business. Two years after I graduated college I was really missing that creative outlet, and decided to start dancing again. In 2014 I took my first dance class in six years at Artisan Dance Studio in Clintonville. I met Holly [Honroth — another Movement Afoot member], through tap classes at Artisan, and she introduced me to Movement Afoot. My involvement there helped me establish a rapport with BalletMet, where I teach. So it really has just grown ever since I took that first class at Artisan!
Lauren: What do you think the best thing about the Columbus art scene is right now?
Janelle: I think it’s the collaborative, as opposed to competitive, spirit within the arts community. There’s so many creative partnerships that are taking place in this city every year. It’s exciting and strengthens the cultural community as a whole.
Lauren: You have extensive musical training and in addition to currently teaching tap. You have also taught music lessons in the past. Does your musical background affect how you think about tap?
Janelle: It definitely does. But, since I’ve been doing both music and dance pretty much my whole life, I don’t think I realized it until I started dancing with Movement Afoot. I just started to notice that I approach things a little differently than the rest of the group at times. I think it’s harder for me to dance a cappella than most, because I orient so strongly to musical phrases which triggers for me, the memorization of the step. And, I like to count in 4’s instead of 8’s like most dancers.
Lauren: What other forms of dance do you do, and how do those relate to your tap dancing?
Janelle: When I started dancing again at Artisan, actually the first class I took was a ballet class. So although it’s not my area of strength, I do a little ballet, jazz and contemporary when I get the chance. It helps me become stronger physically, with stamina, and pushes me outside my comfort zone of tap, which I think is always good to do as a performer.
Lauren: You’ve started doing more choreography recently, and several pieces in your upcoming show have your choreography in them. What is your choreographic process, and how do you think creating your own choreography is different from performing someone else’s?
Janelle: It has been a lot of fun to start exploring choreography. It’s something I always wanted to do, even as a teen, but didn’t really have the confidence to do until much later. I had to get comfortable with myself enough to go beyond the typical tap step vocabulary. I love to watch videos of other dance styles, too, which just inspires me to get up and try something new. It’s also a lot of fun to collaborate and work things out with other dancers. For me, performing my own choreography is so much fun, yet a little intimidating. I tend to choreograph with the audience in mind — I want them to be entertained — and I want to share with them the rhythms I hear in my head complementary to the music.
Lauren: Can you tell us more about what you’ve been working on recently, and what you hope to do from here?
Janelle: I’ve been pretty focused on preparing for Rhythm Studies, because there’s a variety of styles represented in the show that require different types of focus and physical approach. I’m also putting together a piece for my students to do at BalletMet Academy’s spring performance. This summer, I’d love for a couple of us to bring tap to Bridgeway Academy, a nonprofit education and therapy center for kids with autism, where I work in Communications. I’m looking forward to giving tap exposure to different audiences.
See Janelle’s work in Rhythm Studies, running for three performances: Friday, Apr. 27 at 7:30 p.m. (with talk-back), Saturday, Apr. 28 at 3:30 p.m. (with talk-back) and 7:30 p.m. Shows are at the Van Fleet Theatre in the Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Ave., Columbus, OH 43215. Tickets are available online here or at the door. Advanced reservation is recommended.