Working Out With Aaron Tolson
Bernardo Nogueira, Courtesy Só Dança
The hoofer created his own tap-based workout class to get fit.
Despite an exhausting weekly schedule rehearsing for upcoming performances, teaching at Broadway Dance Center, working with private students and traveling for workshops and shows, New York hoofer Aaron Tolson had a surprising realization: “As I get older, tap dancing is not keeping me physically fit.”
The father of two decided to find a way to make his career last longer—and fulfill one of his dreams: “I wanted to get as many people tapping as I could.”
So he developed a combination cardio, strengthening and tap class called Sole Power. It fuses his tap expertise with knowledge he gained from his record-setting track career, which had earned him a full scholarship to St. John’s University and an invitation to the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials. “It’s a tap class that never stops moving,” says Tolson, with a laugh.
Intended for non-dancers, Sole Power requires no previous dance experience or rhythmic ability. Each class begins with an introduction of basic tap steps—such as shuffles, flaps, step-heels and heel-toes—that eventually form a short sequence that students repeat in between exercises to keep their heart rates up. Students alternate between learning simple tap technique and performing exercises like lunges and squats, to which a tap component (like heel drops) is added. Even as Tolson demonstrates the next activity, the class stays in motion by repeating the interval or doing marches and step-touches.
The final exercise is tap trenches, which require alternately sliding each leg back while reaching the opposite arm perpendicular to the floor. Then students work on a long combination and end the class by cooling down with stretching.
Sole Power recently launched at Crunch Gym locations around New York City and Los Angeles, and will soon be in more cities as Tolson trains new teachers, or “Solemates.”
Tolson estimates that students can burn between 300 and 600 calories in each hour-long class. “It exercises your body and your mind,” he says. “When you tap, you have to focus—you can’t let your mind wander. You don’t even realize how hard you’re working.”
Sole Power Results
Tolson credits his own creation with making him healthier and stronger. Teaching the class has helped him to lose about 30 pounds and relieve his tendonitis and knee pain. His other secret? Eliminating peanut butter and desserts from his diet.
No Tap Shoes Necessary
Students wear Power Soles, shoe covers with plastic taps that don’t ruin floors. They can also be used as beginner tap shoes, so students can practice anywhere.
“I want to be fit for my kids,” Tolson says, referring to his daughters Charlotte, 3, and Alexis, 10 months. “The more fit I am now, the better off I’ll be in the long run with them.”
On August 20, pop goddess Lizzo tweeted, "Someone do a ballet routine to truth hurts pls," referring to the anthem that's been top on everyone's playlists this summer. Lizzo might not know it yet, but ballet dancers are not known for shying away from a challenge. In the past two days, the internet has exploded which responses, with dancers like Houston Ballet's Harper Watters and American Ballet Theatre's Erica Lall tagging the singer in submissions.
Below are a few of our favorites so far, but we're guessing that this is just the beginning. Ballet world, consider yourselves officially challenged! (Use #LizzoBalletChallenge so we know what you're up to.)
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
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The commercial dance world is in a period of transition, where social media handles and follower counts are increasingly requested by casting directors, but rarely offered by dancers up front. "I can see it starting to show up on resumés, though, alongside a dancer's height and hair color," predicts Weber.