Known as a leader for tap dance in Australia, Winston Morrison is the founder of MelbourneTapDance and the Australian Tap Dance Festival. Capezio is proud to sponsor this talented artist, who is setting the benchmark for tap dance in Australia.
Winston is also a writer for both Dance Informa and DanceTrain magazine, and is the Australian representative of the Internataional Tap Association. He has taught at New York's Broadway Dance Centre and Melbourne's Jason Coleman's Ministry of Dance. If you want to learn tap from the best, Winston Morrison is your guy!
Are you Melbourne born and raised?
I was actually born in Saudi Arabia (with parents from Taiwan and Sri Lanka) but I've grown up in Melbourne since I was one year old.
Where did you train as a dancer and how old were you when you started?
I started when I was 10. I had been seeing tap on TV (Sesame St, Tap Dogs, Riverdance) and I wanted to know how they did that, so I got started in a local dance school. I trained at Cheryl Witchell School of Dance (tap and jazz), Victorian Dance Academy (tap and jazz), then with Grant Swift (tap) and then went to America to learn further. Now my inspiration and learnings come from videos, music and masterclasses.
Do you have an all-time favourite clip?
Nicholas Brothers: http://youtu.be/t521jxF8tyc
Savion Glover: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6Fh9wBYdtU
Gregory Hines: http://youtu.be/ZDdJQBoWLD8
Dr. Jimmy Slyde: http://youtu.be/t2B1E92xlPg
Tell us about your sponsorship with Capezio.
It's been quite a few years, indirectly through projects like the tap and funk band TeAyPe in 2010, then the Melbourne Tap Dance movement, and now with the Australian Tap Dance Festival as well.
What kind of Capezio shoes do you wear?
K360 and K541 tap shoes.
[Have a look at the shoes Winston wears here: http://www.capeziodanceanz.com/en/CatalogSelect/2/Footwear/16/Tap/Character]
Why do you choose Capezio shoes?
K360 is a fine instrument; its shape is streamlined and balanced so I feel very precise in them. The leather is good; soft on top and hard on the bottom. I get another two layers of leather added onto the sole so they have a heavier sound and solid feel. The K541 is already built with an extra layer on the sole so it feels very solid and it’s very comfortable.
Who has been your biggest inspiration in your career?
As an example of making a living as a tap dancer and taking me to the next level, Grant Swift, who also introduced me to performing professionally and other sources of inspiration, like the history and masters of tap.
What has been a career highlight for you?
My highlight was going to America for three months to learn, perform and be surrounded with tappers of a high level. I will be travelling to America next month to do this again and teach at tap festivals.
What is the best piece of advice you've been given?
Most recently, about performing from Ayodele Casel: “Nothing to prove, everything to share”.
In the past, about not doubting or waiting for the right time: “You will always be better than you are, (so just do it)” – Grant Swift.
If you could choose three artists from any part of history to jam with, who would you choose?
Fayard Nicholas, Gregory Hines and Dr. Jimmy Slyde. Gracious men with big souls and awesome rhythms, style and feel.
Did you train in other dance styles?
Yes, starting out in dance school, my parents thought I needed to work on presentation, so I was soon enrolled in jazz. In my later teens, I realised there was so much to tap that would take a lifetime to continually master, so decided to focus on becoming a tap specialist. During my last trip to NYC I did take a couple of ballet lessons, because I knew there was something for me to learn. Recently I've been training in flips, locking, breaking and popping because (in the same way I started tap) I'd like to be able to move in those ways.
You do tap history education; can you tell us a bit about that?
Through our Melbourne Tap Dance email newsletter (anyone interested in tap can subscribe: http://tapdancingmelbourne.com.au/) I profile a famous tap dancer (specifically their beginnings, style, career highlights, quotes and a video clip) in each issue.
In class I also make reference to or teach footwork of one of the greats, making students aware of that great dancer in history. If I have my laptop with me, I may also have video clips to show them! (some of them I have uploaded on our channel: www.youtube.com/melbournetapdance). DanceTrain magazine has also published an article I've written about tap history.
At the Australian Tap Dance Festival, for the lunchtime sessions we have a room set up where we talk about tap history, the great dancers, and show videos!
How is your style different from other Melbourne tap teachers and performers?
My teaching is music-driven, inspired, spontaneous, and about internalising the feeling and reaching a feeling of freedom. My style I would describe as smooth, dynamic and soulful. My style of choreography has been described by many as musical. Because tap is a form of expression, like a language, I can cater the vocab and style to the dynamic of the people in the class, and guide them to feel the dance and rhythm at a deeper level internally.
Can anybody learn to tap?
The great Dr. James 'Buster' Brown would say “if you can walk, you can tap”.
What's your advice for someone interested in getting started?
Like anything, you must have the desire and the desire must be strong enough in the initial learning stage to outweigh any challenge that will come up in the dance or in life, to keep you on path. An interesting thing I've learnt as a teacher is when the student is doing the step and it looks and sounds great, for them internally they're still taking a while for their comfort to catch up; it is good as a student and teacher to know this. Once you've reached a certain stage it just becomes a part of you, like a new language, playing an instrument, swimming, or riding a bike, so just give it the time and the easiest thing you can do is to just show up every week.
What special events do you have coming up this year?
I will be on faculty in Montreal's Legends of Rhythm Tap Dance Festival, performing in the Tap Internationals show in the New York City Tap Festival, and then on my return, our own Australian Tap Dance Festival in September!
Check out Winston dancing here:
For more info, go to http://tapdancingmelbourne.com.au/