Isaac Stauffer, UI alum and professional tap dancer, performs with the Chicago Tap Theatre

Isaac Stauffer’s latest performance with the Chicago Tap Theatre, For the Love of Tap, brought back in-person performances for the theatre.



Anaka Sanders, Arts Reporter

Driving on the congested and fast-paced Interstate 80 is dreaded by many, but for tap dancer Isaac Stauffer, that interstate led him to the Chicago Tap Theatre.

Following his graduation from the University of Iowa in 2012 with a degree in dance and elementary education, Stauffer suffered a toe injury and wasn’t sure where life would take him. So, he decided to pack up his things and drive.

Within the week, he auditioned for the Chicago Tap Theatre, but did not get accepted. However, he was invited back to perform as a guest dancer in a few shows and was able to make it in the following year.

Stauffer said his motivation while dancing with the theater has always been to feel joy and share it with others.

“Do I need to inspire everybody in the audience to order tap shoes the next day and get involved? No, but if somebody in the audience feels moved by what I’ve done on stage, or if I can be some sort of shining light in a time of darkness for them, then I’ll take that,” Stauffer said.

Stauffer said that he attributes his love for dance to his older cousin. When they were younger, they took tumbling classes taught by his aunt, and from there Stauffer began taking jazz and tap. In high school, he started ballet, and spent a summer in college studying at the Joffrey Ballet School.

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Stauffer’s latest dance with the Chicago Tap Theatre, titled For the Love of Tap, comes with the theater’s return to in-person performances — it also happens to be Stauffer’s return to the theater after ending his position as a full-time company member during the pandemic.

For the Love of Tap is a journey through the company’s most famous work, including “Moonlight” and “Flying Turtles.” In “Moonlight,” Stauffer said he loves the fact that the dance is not what people usually see tap as. He said the piece is a slower, more lyrical performance, where the dancers “really work with their bodies.”

“Flying Turtles” is a dance that hasn’t been performed in 12 years, choreographed by a pioneer in concert tap, Brenda Bufalino. He said that they were fortunate enough to have her fly out and work directly with them to prepare the piece for performance.

Aside from being a tap dancer, he is also a professional development director for the curriculum company Great Minds. He said he also loves traveling, exploring Chicago, and playing volleyball — at the UI, he was on the men’s volleyball club team — and most importantly, he is a “dog dad” to his mini goldendoodle named Charles.

The future is full of possibilities for Stauffer — he recently heard back from For the Love of Taps’ Artistic Director, Mark Yonally, that they will travel to St. Louis in May to continue performing “Flying Turtles.” He is also trying out his hand — or rather, foot — at improvisation and independent freelance dancing.

Stauffer said one of his favorite parts of tap dancing correlates with the Chicago Tap Theatre’s mission to spread the art of tap dance through story-based performances.

“That’s something that is unique to the company, and it blends a lot of different passions and ingredients into those stories,” Stauffer said. “You get to tap dance, you still get the live music, but you also get to act, react, and communicate more things on a deeper level than just joy or an emotion that one piece elicits.”

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