Back home to Ashburn
Page 3 of 3
Back home to Ashburn
By Dec. 30, Jill had recovered from surgery and was well enough to travel to New York so the whole family, including Lucy and Luke’s dad, Mick, could go to the closing night performance together. But Luke and the girls had the stomach flu, and the stagehands positioned buckets just offstage. He made it through the show, much to the relief of his family and the swing understudy, who was panicking in the wings. He had never even attempted to learn Luke’s tap routine.
In January, Luke headed back to Cedar Lane Elementary School, where he discovered he was way behind in the Virginia history unit. He still made occasional trips to New York, like to perform at the Radio City Music Hall for the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S4. But for the record, he is not allowed to have a smartphone. “Just one with numbers on it,” he says, glumly. He sneaks his sister’s to perform typical 10-year-old boy tasks like checking sports scores.
“Luke and I talk football all the time,” Lewis said. “He’s such a trip.”
With little prompting, Luke will tell you that he strongly dislikes Tom Brady, is bummed that Ray Lewis retired and is worried about the Redskins’ wide receiver prospects. In the studio, he and Lewis do a good bit of joking around, calling each other Short Stump Spring and Long Legs Lewis. But they also get serious. Luke understands that tap is a historically African American dance style, Lewis said. When he goes to teach Luke a new step, he often suggests names of tappers for Luke to look up on the Internet. YouTube may have made Luke famous, but it’s also a reason he’s so good.
“Luke thrives off of that,” Lewis said. “He gets really excited, and he gets inspired.
His dancing embodies so many of the great tap dancers of the past. He’ll watch a video of Gregory Hines, the Nicholas Brothers, Savion Glover or Harold ‘Stumpy’ Cromer and be able to quote whole phrases, and he’s been doing this since he was 6.”
Growing up in Germantown, Lewis was a member of Tappers With Attitude, a D.C. touring group that has largely fizzled out.
The capital is not the tap capital it once was. Instead, the art form is practiced in suburban studios and galvanized at special events like the annual DC Tap Fest, which Arnold founded with her sister, and touring Broadway shows like “Anything Goes.” On July 27, tapping brothers John and Leo Manzari will perform at the Kennedy Center’s celebration of National Dance Day. The Southwest D.C. natives will also be back in town this fall, to perform in Maurice Hines’s variety show “Tappin’ Thru Life” at Arena Stage.
“Tap is trying to make a comeback, and honestly, I think having Luke in the area is making it even bigger,” Lewis says. “Just him alone. And that says something about his character. When Luke goes on TV, he always says he’s from Virginia. So that’s how everyone knows him: as the little tap dancing kid from Virginia.”
Ritzell is a freelance writer.