July 2017 | Did You Know? | History Connection

 

Sean and John Scott / Alfred Desio

It’s all energy all the time with tap dancing twins Sean and John Scott. Now appearing in the retro-hip cabaret Absinthe in Las Vegas, Sean and John have worked with Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, and Usher. The 33-year-olds are equally comfortable calling out a rap with their feet on The Queen Latifah Show as they are knocking off splits in a re-creation of the Nicholas Brothers’ Stormy Weather routine on Dancing With the Stars.

The two started their tap training as hyper-energetic 6-year-olds after their mother saw Sammy Davis Jr. performing on TV and enrolled them in the Colburn School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles. Their first teacher was visionary tapper Alfred Desio, who would become a father figure and artistic mentor to the boys.

Sean and John Scott (above, left to right) trained with tap visionary Alfred Desio (top right). Desio’s passion and exploratory attitude toward tap has influenced the Scott’s varied professional career, which includes nightly performances in the Las Vegas acro/cabaret show Absinthe (bottom).
Top photo by LA Times, courtesy Louise Reichlin/Los Angeles Choreographers and Dancers; middle photo courtesy Sean and John Scott; bottom photo by Erik Kabik

“We were there in the studio with him almost every day,” Sean told Dance Studio Life. “He loved tap and the people who enjoy it. He definitely wanted us to carry tap on, to teach youth, to carry on his legacy.”

Desio is little known today outside of tap circles, but in the early ’80s, Daily Variety called him “probably the most inventive tapper in the business.” A former Broadway dancer, Desio developed Tap-Tronics, a system that wired his shoes’ taps to a synthesizer, which transformed the sounds of his tapping into any number of electronic pings, bings, and sonic booms.

His invention caught the attention of Gregory Hines, who used it for the nightclub tap jam scene in the 1989 movie Tap. Current tap innovators such as Michelle Dorrance and Nicholas Van Young have further explored the creative musicalization of tap sounds through the use of electronic tap boards and other systems.

After Desio died in 2007, the brothers had the same dream: that Desio came to them and told them to “pass on tap,” Sean says. The twins went from dancing for spare change at age 14 at Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade to meeting Gregory Hines and performing with Fayard Nicholas to their present nonstop professional career.

Sean describes their style as street showmanship, old school, and swing. “As a dancer, you develop and hone your style, but you also look for things that will challenge you to think outside the box,” he says.

Alfred Desio couldn’t have said it better himself. —Karen White

 


DSL associate editor Karen White has taught dance since age 17.