Categorized | NEWS

‘Tappy Hour’ gives new meaning to happy hour

Posted on 27 October 2017 by Calvin

Housed in the former American Can Company at 755 Prior Ave. N., Can Can Wonderland is a colorful blend of artist-inspired miniature golf, fun and festive foods, art happenings and, as of late, a place to don tap shoes and hoof a little with a pro. From 4-6pm on Friday nights, the tables and chairs are pushed aside, and a section of the floor at Can Can Wonderland is cleared for tap dancing.

Dance teacher Ellen Keane welcomes beginners and everyone else to her free Tappy Hour. “I build this class to be about 20 minutes of movement,” she said, “and then we take a break. After the break, we start up again, and people are free to come and go. I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re being held captive.” Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available at the bar nearby—most are served in a can.

Photo left: Dance teacher Ellen Keane (in white pants and floral top on the left) led a group of beginning dancers during a Friday afternoon Tappy Hour at Can Can Wonderland. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Along with her sister Cathy Wind, Keane co-directs a non-profit dance company called Keane Sense of Rhythm at 836 Prior Ave. N. (just about across the street). Keane said, “My sister and I come from a dancing family; our mother was a chorus girl with the pantomimes in England when she was young. Our father loved to dance too. My first memory of social dancing was with him, standing on his feet while we swung around the room. ”

“I was a typical dance kid who studied tap, ballet, and jazz,” Keane said. “It wasn’t until much later that I discovered rhythm tap, which is what we dance at Keane Sense of Rhythm. Rhythm tap is as much about music as it is about dance. I saw my first performance of rhythm tap when I was 28. I went with my sister to see The Jazz Tap Ensemble perform at the Ordway Theater. They were America’s first touring tap dance company, founded in 1979 by three dancers and three musicians who brought original tap choreography and live jazz music to the concert stage. I looked at my sister and said, ‘This is it. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.’”

The motto at Keane Sense of Rhythm is, “dance that builds community.” Outreach has been a driving force behind the organization since the beginning. Keane explained, “A big part of my love of rhythm tap is the American culture it came out of, and that culture was most often made up of people of color. I love the skill set, but it’s the culture that I really want to grow in the Twin Cities. Rhythm tap is inviting, it’s accessible, and it also has a longevity unique among dance styles. I hope to be dancing well into my 80’s – imagine that you can just keep getting better and better.”

Photo right: Keane has a huge collection of used tap shoes, enough to fill a quarter of her garage. She brings several boxes to Tappy Hour, so there are plenty to go around. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“I do a lot of teaching in St. Paul schools,” Keane said, “and I choose to reach out to schools where more than 90% of the students receive free or reduced lunches (an indicator of family poverty). Many of the kids that I’ve met in those schools have joined our Youth Tap Ensemble at Keane Sense of Rhythm. We have kids ages 8-18, grouped by ability and experience. Our students are among many local and national groups who’ll be performing at the Cowles Center for the Arts in downtown Minneapolis Oct. 19-22 in the third Twin Cities Tap Festival. Go to www.twincitiestap.com for complete info.

Tappy Hour happens every Friday night at Can Can Wonderland, and all are welcome.