The co-founders of the non-profit Our Fabulous Variety Show talk about their fourth annual tap showcase, the importance of arts education, and how Disney World inspired a Star Wars dance routine.
Our Fabulous Variety Show presents its fourth “Tap: An Evening of Rhythm” this weekend at Guild Hall. It feels like there is a real resurgence, especially in East Hampton, of students having an interest in dancing tap, as opposed to other traditionally popular dance classes for young students like ballet? Why do you think that is?
Anita: Honestly, I think the reason tap is so popular out here is because I love it. I am so obsessed with it and I kind of insist that everyone love it with me.
How did you find this passion?
Anita: I found it in second grade in Ashland, Ohio in dance studio. I was terrible at ballet — I loved it, but I had no flexibility and didn’t have the classical lines that are kind of necessary to make it in ballet but I loved tap and my teacher introduced us to Dave Brubeck and White Christmas, Vera Ellen, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, and began tapping to those classics. When I moved to New York I was introduced to rhythm tap which blew my mind and opened up a whole new world of tap dancers and getting more into the history of tap dance, the legends, taking classes at Broadway Dance. Having taken classes in Ohio and moving here, I realized how much I didn’t know and that is why the tap show is created … people should understand why it is important and why tap was created and that is one of the things that this show tries to do.
So, how did Star Wars inspire a tap routine? What’s the backstory there, and will there be sequels, or prequels?
Anita: Well, if there are prequels, I promise they won’t suck! Kasia inspired it. We were at Disney World — that is why I go there so much because that is where so much inspiration comes from, it’s not pleasure at all — but we were at Hollywood Studios and Stormtroopers were walking around and Kasia was like, ‘That is so cool.’ And the music was playing and she said, ‘That would be a good dance.’ And I said, “Let’s do it.”
How did the two of you first form your partnership in OFVS? How did you meet?
Kasia: We met in “Cabaret” at the Southampton Cultural Center in the summer of 2010 and became very good friends. Then Anita conned me into running a half marathon with her in Las Vegas. With that half marathon, we had to raise about $3,000 each for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, a non-profit. We were doing bake sales and asking all our friends and family for donations, but it wasn’t cutting it, so we thought, let’s do a show — we had met so many talented people in “Cabaret.” We decided to put on a one-night show only called Our Fabulous Team Challenge Benefit.
Anita: That’s where our name came from, the sign “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” — that was the original poster and that is why our name is Our Fabulous Variety Show.
Kasia: Inspired by our Vegas trip. We ended up raising over $5,000 that night and we decided to do it again the following May, and the Charitable Cabaret the audience got to choose the benefit we would donate to. That became part of the business model where we would do these shows but also donate back to the community, whether another non-profit organization or our performing arts scholarship, which we developed along the way as well. It ended up magically happening and we love doing it. We have moved into narrative shows, we do variety shows and small showcases.
Anita: It really started as us getting performers who are already performance ready to do shows and it has become very much more focused on training people and giving kids the life experience of building confidence and learning storytelling, expression, finding your voice, finding your passion, and living it. Kasia and I became teachers along the way and that has been really cool.
Arts education is increasingly on the chopping block in terms of state and federal funding. As arts educators can you tell us a little bit about what you see it bringing into the lives of your students?
Anita: Parents call us after every workshop, every show, saying ‘My kid was depressed, alone and then they found Our Fabulous Variety Show and now they have a group where they are accepted and valued. We have had kids become leaders at school. A great example is Tori Schmitt — this is her 11thproduction with us — and she just returned from Nicaragua building a school for children. She is such an incredible leader and has been able to hone a lot of those skills with us — she was an assistant director on our last youth production and it is great way for people to find their voice and feel like what they have to say matters. It is not the typical director message where we say, ‘Do it exactly this way at this time and your own opinions don’t matter.’ It’s almost the exact opposite.
Kasia: It is always amazing, especially in the educational theater workshops, to see kids coming in so shy on the first day and eight weeks later they are in a lead role or are running the improv scene they have created. It’s not just about performing on stage, it is about building confidence. It is also about exploring the issues that matter to them. That happens more with the teenagers but we love students to be able to say things about the world that maybe they don’t get to say at school. They are able to explore status, power, and gender and what those things mean to them, which is really important for us because it means they are becoming active citizens of the world.
Anita: With funding, we struggle with that too especially with our model of donating back. We donate back more than we pay ourselves. It is not a sustainable model because Our Fabulous Variety Show does need an influx of funding and spreading the word about these shows, getting more people involved, and to donate, is very important because it is the only way to offer these opportunities to these kids.
What is next for OFVS? How do you see your organization growing and evolving?
Kasia: Next up we have a holiday Cabaret Variety Show the first weekend in December. It will be filled with our fabulous drag queen divas, lots of fresh new dances, definitely some improvised scenes and sketches we are going to create over the next few months …
Anita: We will be holding a series of pop up workshops for people to stay involved but not have the rigor or stress of a full-scale production. We want this summer and fall to be more relaxed and focus energy on creating brand new numbers … and of course, we will also be looking at global domination.
Our Fabulous Variety Show will host “Tap: An Evening of Rhythm” at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton, with performances on Friday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m., on Saturday, May 5 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, May 6 at 2 p.m. For more information, or for tickets visit ourfabulousvarietyshow.org.