We had the good fortune of connecting with Suzy Guarino-Hall and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Suzy, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
My thoughts of starting up Tap 24.7 began as a young dancer/actress trying to make my name known and trying to get a foot in the door. I spent much of my time sitting around and waiting for that big call; for someone to “take a chance on me.” I had many opportunities when I was younger, and I was very grateful for all the work but nothing really catapulted me to the level of success that I was looking for. I realized in the early 2000’s that I needed to create that opportunity for myself instead of waiting for someone to pick me up and carry me to the place I needed to be.
Tap dancing has always been something that I have not only been very good at, but I have been passionate about. When I was 5 years old, I started dancing at a studio and learning all styles of dance. I competed at dance competitions and conventions and I loved that environment, an environment which also provided inspiration to the younger, up and coming dancers. But as I started out in my teaching career, I noticed that tap wasn’t well received or “given a chance” like many of the other styles of dance. I thought back to when I was younger and yearning for some direction and opportunity, and I knew that’s what I wanted to give to the tap dancers today. Tap 24.7 is a place where dancers that have a passion for tap dancing come to be part of a professional show experience. They learn how to pick up choreography from different choreographers, they learn about the discipline required to take on multiple dances within a show, they learn their stage and lighting cues, and they become a true performer onstage.
Not only do I provide this to our young dancers, I also have a group of young adult tap dancers that are part of the professional side of Tap 24.7. Here, they are given not only main performance opportunities, some of them get to partake in creating choreography for the show. They learn how to break down their dances on videos so that it is easily learned by the dancers in their piece. They also learn effective ways to run their rehearsals as well as staging and creating lighting ideas to make their dance a full creation.
Every year, since 2012, I have birthed a new show with an original storyline with all tap dancing. This past year we celebrated our 10th show and had over 100 tap dancers from across the country perform at The Madison Center for the Arts. Not only do I provide work for tap dancers and choreographers, I have also hired young composers, camera operators, and media specialists to be part of the production. I like to think that this show provides everyone involved with a unique journey for their own growth as well as learning to be a smaller part of a greater idea. It is just incredible to see that everyone involved has their own special job that must be done in order for it all to come together and put this amazing show onstage!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
A lot of people think that tap dancing is a dying art form. I challenge that comment aggressively. To choose a profession in which you are passionate about means that it isn’t dying. And to have over 100 dancers under the age of 20 want to be part of what you are doing is another sign of growth, not decline. I have been told those words of negativity from dance studio owners and other professional dancers in the business my whole life. I am always defending tap dance as a thriving and alive art form.
As far as recent challenges, it hasn’t been easy, Last year was extremely difficult with COVID. After having to postpone the show twice, we chose to do the show, but we did it as a video. This was a unique experience for myself and the dancers. It taught them lessons of how to perform and dance for the camera. I am actually grateful for that opportunity and learned so much, even during post-production.
I am someone that is dedicated to what I do and I never count the amount of hours that I put into this business. I get up in the middle of the night sometimes to work on the show. I am actively involved in all facets of the show, even though I may not be an expert at certain jobs. But it has been incredible to be able to verbalize what I am looking for to my lighting designer and have it come to life onstage; or tell my music director the type of direction I want our theme song to be, and hear the finished product.
I am proud of the cast of dancers that are involved in the show. In a time where kids are easily distracted and social media runs their lives, they choose to take the time away from all the technology to learn their dances in the show and rehearse. The friendships that happen and experiences that are made are something that they remember their whole lives, even if they never become a professional tap dancer. The skills they acquire while being in the show carry over into their adult lives and prepare them for becoming a successful person. It means the world to me when a former cast member messages me and tells me that the Tap 24.7 show was one of the best memories they have growing up! I always tell everyone right at the beginning, before any dances are learned, that this is a journey. I am honored to have the cast with me while we learn and grow. Then, on show weekend, we reap the rewards of all of our hard work!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, I happen to love Phoenix! I grew up in Chicago and definitely had my share of enjoying that city as well. But, there is something about Phoenix that is so unique and exciting!
First off, I would recommend staying at one of our incredible resorts we have here. Depending on their style, I would suggest, Sanctuary, JW Marriott Camelback or Desert Ridge, or the Westin Kierland. The spas in these resorts are fabulous! So one full day, there would need to be a spa day filled with massages, facials, and sitting by the pool and partaking in some fun beverages.
Our restaurants in the Valley are so incredible as well! I am a favorite of most of the Fox restaurants, like North, The Henry, Blanco, and Olive and Ivy. Of course, there are restaurants with breath-taking views like Elements, Different Pointe of View, and Orange Sky. And also unique, amazing culinary options like Binkley’s and The Farm at South Mountain. And you can’t leave without trying Steak 44 and Mastro’s.
I love the cultural side of Phoenix, and some of the museums which highlight our history like the Heard Museum, AZ Heritage Center at Papago Park, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, and Phoenix Art Museum. I also enjoy driving through some of the historical neighborhoods as well and seeing some of the older, original houses. There are some downtown near Roosevelt and 3rd Ave, also there are neighborhoods like Arcadia that are fun to drive around.
A trip up to Sedona is a must for any visitor! I would recommend a stay during the week, since the weekend is so crowded. There is so much to do, that’s at least a 2 day trip filled with hiking, shopping, Pink Jeep tours, and dining.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are a lot of people that have helped me along the way with so much. One person that is no longer with us here has helped Tap 24.7 unselfishly for years. His name is Gregg Russell. He was a well-respected dancer and teacher who passed away too soon last year due to COVID. He left behind his wife and 5 year old daughter, as well as a multitude of people who were his friends and colleagues.
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Elena Thorton, Caroline Julian, Gus Mann, Stephen So