2024 Dance Teacher Award Honoree Dre Torres Makes Tap Welcoming for Beginners and Broadway Stars
July 1, 2024

Although Dre Torres always knew she had rhythm inside of her, the possibility of a career in dance seemed unlikely at first. “Coming from a small town, it was kind of ridiculous to think that you could just be a tap dancer,” says the McAllen, Texas, native. “That was hard for people to believe when I would say it.”

But Torres followed her dream to make a living making rhythms. Now, from competition choreography to concert dances to Broadway rehearsals, the 36-year-old has found her voice as a tap artist and educator. Her weekly advanced-beginner tap classes at New York City’s Broadway Dance Center have garnered a loyal following of dancers who admire her passion and excitement for the art form. “She makes tap dancing such wild fun that nothing feels unattainable, even if the material is challenging,” says Jennifer Hatzes Abbott, one of Torres’ regular students.

Dre Torres taps in front of a Broadway Dance Center banner. She is a young white woman with her hair styled in an undercut; she wears a denim button down open over dark pants, topped with a dark green, drapey scarf. She smiles warmly as she leans toward the camera.
Dre Torres. Photo by Kayleen Bertrand, courtesy Torres.

From a young age, Torres trained at the studio of celebrated tap educator, writer, and historian Melba Huber. “I was so enthusiastic in the beginning, I was a little loud,” Torres says with a laugh. “Melba whipped me into shape. I was lucky to have tap shared with me in a way that catapulted my love for it.” Huber would also take her to the annual St. Louis Tap Festival, where Torres studied with legendary hoofers, such as Henry LeTang, Jimmy Slyde, and the Nicholas Brothers, who inspired the passion for the art form and its history that she now shares each week with her students.

After graduating from Oklahoma City University with a BS in American dance pedagogy and a minor in business entrepreneurship, Torres moved to New York City and soon found herself teaching and performing on a variety of stages and platforms, from Comedy Central and Radio City Music Hall to the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. With each new opportunity, Torres could feel that she was in the right place.

“There was so much community—it was kind of surreal,” she recalls. “I remember being so beside myself, thinking: I love tap dance so much. I get to do this for the rest of my life.”

When her family needed her closer to home, she moved back to Texas and accepted a role as principal dancer with Tapestry Dance Company, the country’s only full-time professional tap ensemble. She spent five years with the company, under the artistic direction of Acia Gray. “She was always pushing hard and wanting to learn,” says Gray. “When given the opportunity to develop a character, she was fully committed. It was amazing to watch.”

But Torres could still hear New York City calling her name. After frequent trips there to work with Ayodele Casel, she finally returned to the Northeast in 2022. She recently wrapped a residency with Dance Lab New York, where she began creating her own show, and teaches regularly at Broadway Dance Center.

Dre Torres demonstrates for a handful of tap students in a studio. She is a young white woman with her hair styled in an undercut; she wears a denim button down open over dark pants, topped with a dark green, drapey scarf.
Dre Torres. Photo by Kayleen Bertrand, courtesy Torres.

“Tap can be intimidating because of its intricacy,” Torres says. “The atmosphere I try to create is that of joy and community and openness and room for failure and success.” She has a knack for quickly getting to know her students and building their confidence. By the end of the class, they’re laughing and dancing more freely than when they first entered the room.

“When I’ve seen her teaching, the students absolutely love her,” says Gray. “She has infectious, high-energy choreography and style.”

“I crack a lot of jokes—I get that from my dad,” Torres admits. “I think I’m a funny girl.”

So it’s no surprise that her first Broadway gig was with the creative team of Funny Girl, alongside Casel. As the assistant tap choreographer, Torres helped train stars Lea Michele and Tovah Feldshuh before they took over the roles of Fanny Brice and Mrs. Brice, respectively. She’s played the same part on the current touring production, traveling with the show to help maintain the integrity of the choreography. “It’s the perfect show for me because I can relate to Fanny Brice and her development,” she says.

Torres hopes that her next turn on Broadway will be staging her own work. “I have so many new goals, new dreams, new shows I want to produce,” she says. “The more that we can share this art form, everyone can have the tools to move through life with a little bit more joy and happiness.”

Get your tickets now for the 2024 Dance Teacher Live Workshops & Awards, taking place on Thursday, August 1, 2024 from 9 am–3 pm at The Ailey Studios located in New York City. We can’t wait to see you there!

To read about other 2024 DT awardees, click here.

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