What My Teacher Taught Me: Makayla Ryan on Tap Dancer and Choreographer Anthony Morigerato
October 31, 2023

I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of really wonderful people, but one of the most meaningful teachers in my life is tap dancer and choreographer Anthony Morigerato. I took his class for the first time at Nuvo Dance Convention in 2011 and, soon after that, he started coming to choreograph at my mom’s dance studio, Body Language Dance Company, in Jenison, Michigan. Anthony choreographed my first tap solo, and I’ve worked closely with him ever since. He has significantly influenced my musicality and challenged me to do things that I never would have believed I could do.

Anthony and I have always worked well together. He’s interested in choreographing things that are outside of the normal tap dance competition box, and I always liked that. Because he is so well-rounded, he liked to bring the unique sensibilities of other styles into what we were doing with tap. For instance, he choreographed pieces to Radiohead and Adele. It helped me connect with the artistry that can be shown through tap.

Anthony’s teaching style is very specific. He knows what he’s looking for and is very good at articulating it. One of his top priorities is musicality. Once, when he was teaching a class, he had us do an exercise across the floor and, in addition to doing the steps correctly, he had us physically demonstrate how we were keeping time while waiting on the sides. Whether that was bending our knees, nodding our heads, or tapping our chests with the beat, he wanted to see that we were tracking it. Each time he saw someone stop, he would draw a tally mark on the mirror. Each tally mark represented 10 wings that we would have to do. By the end of class, we had to do close to 100 of them! He was using the exercise to teach us that keeping time is not too difficult if we pay attention. It is something that can be practiced easily at any time, and it makes a huge difference.

Photo by Katie Mollison of KAMeraShoots, courtesy Ryan.

Aside from musicality, Anthony wants dancers to pay attention to their entire body when tapping. It can be easy to focus so intently on the feet that you forget what else is required to do the steps correctly. I’ve carried that lesson into other styles, as well. I now try to pay attention to the whole picture of the step, and notice details that might not seem like a priority but are actually important for getting the movement right. Tap is such a specific and challenging practice that doing it has really helped me in other genres. For example, it’s given me the confidence to pick up tricky petit allégro combinations in ballet when I assist at conventions. In a recent audition I had for Caleb Teicher’s upcoming show at The Joyce called Bzzz, I struggled to pick up a section of choreography. I started to panic and had to take a breath, step back, and just watch it so that I could take in the whole thing. Seeing the big picture with all of the details allowed me to figure out where the movement was sitting in their body and drop back into it more confidently. It went well and I was able to land the job.

Anthony believes in me and has put his trust in me again and again. I probably wouldn’t have considered myself a tap dancer without his encouragement. I always thought I was someone who could tap dance, but wouldn’t categorize myself as a tap dancer. Now, I feel like I can confidently say that I am a tap dancer, and I think that’s pretty special. I am so very grateful for Anthony.

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