Brenda Bufalino Shares Valuable Tap Advice She Received From Her Mentor, Charles “Honi” Coles

Creative Commons License photo credit: C~
A few weeks ago I shared some tap advice that really helped me become the dancer I am today. I also mentioned that I had asked other tap dancers I know to do the same.

Well, Brenda Bufalino was the first tap dancer to respond to my question, a reflection on her giving nature and dedication to tap.

When asked to share one piece of advice she received that helped her become the dance she is now, she replied as follows:

One day long ago I asked my mentor and partner, “Honi” Coles, what he thought of a dance I was creating and his reply was: “Great dance baby, but maybe you crowd too much.”

So after a year of studying myself I figured out what he meant. Don’t crowd the beginning and the ending of phrases. In other words, leave some space.

I was going to add my two cents but I now think it unnecessary. All I’ll say is…Selah!

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What’s One Piece of Advice That Helped You Become The Dancer You Are Today?

Creative Commons License photo credit: thinboyfatter

If you’re anything like me you can trace a lot of who you are back to certain key experiences that profoundly altered your outlook on dance forever.

Maybe it was a scene from a movie, or a performance that captivated you. Or perhaps some wise person (a teacher, a mentor, or a parent) said something that you return to whenever you face a new challenge.

Back in 1999 or so I took a class at Broadway Dance Center from Ayodele Casel. After class (and I know she won’t remember this), I pulled her aside and asked her a question about something that had really been bugging me. You see, I had been tap dancing for about two years at that time, and was receiving a lot of recognition back home in Atlanta about how well I was dancing, and how I had “great feet”. Still I was unsatisfied because my dancing did not yet sound the way I wanted it to.

The sounds just weren’t “right” if that makes sense.

Anyway, I asked Ayodele about this and her brief response, given on the spot with lots of folks vying for pictures with her by the way, forever changed my approach to tap dancing.

Here is her response reworded as I now remember it:

When you dance you should listen to the music in your head and then try to recreate those exact sounds with your feet, matching them tone for tone.

-paraphrase of Ayodele Casel’s advice to me


This advice hit me like a ton of bricks and helped make me the dancer I am today. For me, it has become a key ingredient of the stew in my creative process for dance and in life.

It’s essence is simple: Before you act – LISTEN!

I know you’ve had a similar experience. Help us all by sharing the advice that helped you in the comments below – also make sure to tell us where you heard it!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about advice that has influenced other great contemporary tap dancers, so make sure you don’t miss it.

You never know if something they share will move you to the next level forever!

Your Friend in Rhythm,

Terrence Taps

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Why I Love Tap Dancing

There is something about the sound of metal taps on a hardwood floor; something about dancing AND creating music simultaneously.

When I am happy, tap dancing is a natural expression of my joy.

When I am sad, tap dancing seems to express the deeper hurt that is so often inexpressible in words…

In frustration, tap dancing allows me to rage against all that is unfair…

To respectfully vent that negative energy in a way that is brutally honest

Tap dancing allows me to worship God, to become attuned to that deep connection that we all have with him and one another

Finally, tap dancing allows me to be free…

To live completely in the present without regarding what I am going through, what has already happened, or what will…

It is my connection.


Now…Why do you love tap dancing? Please leave a comment!

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