At age six Bayley Graham stepped into the world of tap dancing and was instantly hooked.
He’d seen tap dancing on a television talent show and it piqued his interest.
“I thought damn, that’s cool.”
There happened to be a dance studio offering tap dancing lessons a five-minute drive from his house.
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“It was like it was meant to be. I went there and absolutely loved it and never looked back,” Graham said.
The Christchurch-based tap dancer, choreographer and teacher’s toe-tapping performances caught the attention of the nation this year when he won TVNZ’s talent show 60 Seconds, and this week he’s bringing his act north to the Nelson Fringe Festival.
It is the first time the 22-year-old has put together his own full show, titled Rhythm Is My Business, and he’s eager to perform it.
Graham said the interesting sounds from tap dancing were a huge part of the appeal for him.
“It has that extra element – rhythm and making music with your feet,” he said.
“It’s so visual and cool on your ears.”
Tap dancing was last really popular from the 1930s to the 1950s, but Graham said he was working hard to change the public perception of the dance form, experimenting with different sounds and props.
“I want to modernise it and bring back the fundamentals that everyone likes about tap dance, and bring it to the modern age.
“It’s like a love letter to old school tap dancing.”
His one-hour show is high energy.
“I’m probably going to have to be wheelchaired out of there,” he laughed. “It’s an hour of energetic type dancing that will hopefully knock people’s socks off.”
Two tap dancing friends, from Wellington and Christchurch, will also perform during the show.
Along with winning 60 Seconds, other career highlights for Graham so far have been performing street shows at the World Buskers Festival in Christchurch and the Southland Buskers Festival and tapping on Italian television show Tu Si Que Vales in Rome.
He’s also performed at SkyCity Auckland and at half time in a Super Rugby final and has won numerous national dance awards, including one which secured him the chance to perform on a cruise boat sailing from Sydney and around New Caledonia.
Graham’s occupation was performing and teaching tap until the Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions dealt him, like countless others in the arts and entertainment sector, a huge blow. He now studies graphic design through the day and teaches tap and dances at night as the sector starts to recover.
“Covid hit the whole arts world. You couldn’t go out and perform, and it was hard to teach. It was really hard – every year really counts as a performer.”
More than 100 performers are due to take to the stage during the Nelson Fringe Festival, with 38 shows over 10 days, from June 23 to July 2.
Graham will present his show Rhythm is My Business at the Red Door Theater in Nelson on June 25 and 26 at 6pm.
The full festival program is at www.nelsonfringe.co.nz and tickets are available at various venues including online at www.eventfinda.co.nz