Boys can tap too: Elon student pursues dance in college

He started tapping when he was three years old.

Patrick Cunningham rehearses choreography in his tap class on a Friday morning. This is the second tap class he has taken at Elon.

“I took it for seven years growing up from when I was three until 10 years old, but then I stopped because it wasn’t cool to be a boy tap dancer,” said Elon senior Patrick Cunningham.

Although Cunningham grew up tapping his feet, he stopping taking classes at 10 years old but since coming to college, refound his love for tapping and has taken two semesters of tap classes.

“Classes at Elon have been great with tap,” Cunningham said. “Our professor is Gene Medler and he’s an amazing tap instructor. He learned all of his technique from some of the great tap dancers of the past like Brenda Bufalino. His lessons really focus on proper rhythm tap form and structure.”

Medler is the founder of the N.C. Tap Ensemble and is the director of the N.C. Rhythm Tap Festival, according to

Tap professor Gene Medler currently teaches at Elon, but has also instructed at the Saratov Music Conservatory in Russia, the Ballet School of Chapel Hill and the Chicago Human Rhythm Project.

“The atmosphere is great in the class,” Cunningham said. “We take a lot of time to work out the specific mechanics of each move. (Medler) will really, really slow down stuff and show us what each move is supposed to look like and sound like. We’ll learn a combination and eventually full dances – he mixes it up every week.”

Cunningham also appreciates dance in every aspect as he is musically inclined as well.

“It’s not just a dance – you’re also making music at the same time,” he said. “I like that there’s a visual and an auditory component to it. I may not look the most graceful when I’m doing it, but I like that I can make the sounds and get it going.”

The “grace” Cunningham looks for is difficult to come by and he said that for him, the hardest part of tap dancing is learning the choreography and feels that he has to work much harder to actually understand and do the steps.

"It’s not just a dance; you’re also making music at the same time. I like that it has a visual and an auditory component to it." - Patrick Cunningham

“I feel like I take a really long time to get it all to come out,” Cunningham said. “I know what it’s supposed to sound like, I know what’s it’s supposed to look like in my head, but actually making it happen? They’re two totally different things.”

Despite his difficulties in memorizing the moves, Cunningham says that he has recently dabbled in other types of dancing, specifically dancing with a partner.

“I’ve recently been taking swing dancing lessons in Greensboro once a week,” he said, “and that’s been a lot of fun because that’s partner dancing. There are moves to it, but it’s really kind of whatever you feel like doing at that time is what you do.”


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