The Tap Scholar Program

Founded in 1995 to honor the life of CHRP co-founder, Kelly Michaels, the Rhythm World Tap Scholar Award program has provided more than $350,000 in financial aid to over 300 talented, deserving young dancers from around Chicago, the United States and international exchange.

The Tap Scholar Award program conducts an audition in Chicago every February as a part of the Winter Tap Jamboree where the majority of awards are made and holds auditions in Tokyo, Rio De Janeiro, Zurich, Toronto and various American cities. The Award decisions are based on a combination of criteria including skill, talent and financial need with the intention of creating a diverse mix of young dancers dedicated to furthering their tap and percussive dance education every summer at CHRP’s Rhythm World.

Rhythm World is the oldest, largest and most comprehensive festival of American tap and contemporary percussive arts in the world, annually attracting hundreds of students from around the globe to study with an internationally acclaimed faculty of 25 – 30 master teachers and performers. Over the last 22 years, many Tap Scholar Award winners, including Jumaane Taylor, Ian Berg, Starinah Dixon, Nico Rubio, Sean Kaminski, and Donnetta Jackson, have gone on to successful careers in teaching, choreographing and performing.

Congratulations to our 2019 Tap Scholars!

Aryonna C. Grier

Aryonna has been participating in dance recitals since the age of three. She was picked to be on the Dayton Dance Conservatory Company(DDCC) Pre-Ensemble Competition Tap Team in 2010 and 2011 and the Competition Dance Team from 2012 to 2016, practicing tap, jazz, hip-hop, and contemporary. She has been part of the main Dance Team since 2017. Aryonna has also performed for the Tapology Youth Ensemble, CHRP’s JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance, and Rhythm World at the Jazz Showcase. Kandee Thacker-Mann of DDCC describes Aryonna as “a dedicated dancer and an all-around great student.”

“If it wasn’t for the scholarship, I would not have been able to attend last year. I was one of the youngest in my classes. I had to really challenge myself, and I’m happy to say I held my own. I enjoyed performing at the Jazz Club and the JUBA! Festival. I even participated in the cutting contest, which was out of my comfort zone, but it was fun and I’d do it again.”

Caleb Jackson

Caleb has studied tap dance, hip-hop, and ballet. He has performed all around Chicago, including “Feeling Good: A M.A.D.D. Tribute to Nina Simone and CHRP’s JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance. Last year, he attended and performed at the D.C. Tap Fest with M.A.D.D. Rhythms. On top of that, he has attended Rhythm World and the Chicago Tap Summit. Star Dixon, teacher at M.A.D.D. Rhythms and faculty member for Rhythm World 29, professes that Caleb “has grown a tremendous amount in such a short period of time” and is “well on his way to becoming an exceptional tap dancer.”

“I had a very good experience last year, and it was really good to take class from dancers I had never met before. This year, the scholarship will benefit me because I will have an opportunity to become even more familiar with the people that attend the festival and also the teachers at the festival. This will be good for me because I can develop new relationships with new people and also take in all the knowledge that I can about how to become a better tap dancer from all the teachers that will be at the festival this year.”

Ja Kayla C. Harris

Ja Kayla has studied multiple styles of dance including tap, ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip-hop, and modern. When it comes to tap dancing she has had a lot of experience. She’s participated in recitals/competition teams since 2010, Tapology Festival, CHRP’s own Rhythm World, M.A.D.D. Rhythms, and is part of the Tapology Youth Ensemble in addition to being part of Dayton Dance Conservatory Company (DDCC), a professional dance company. Her teacher, Kandee Thacker-Mann, believes that Ja Kayla is “a great up and coming tap dancer and one of the top students on the DDCC tap team.”

“I received a partial scholarship last year and it was truly an amazing opportunity. CHRP introduced me to different styles of tap, different teachers, different music, and even new friends. When I was at CHRP last year, I felt that I was really getting a taste of the tap world, something I don’t always get at home in Dayton. Besides learning, one of my favorite events during CHRP was when I got to watch the shows and see all of the amazing tap dancers. That truly renewed my love for tap and gave me something to aspire to be in the future.”

Maliah Keaton

Maliah has studied tap, hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, and ballet. She has tapped competitively on a dance team, including solo, duo, group, and large production numbers and was a national qualifier multiple times. She has also had annual tap recitals for 10 years. Maliah has attended Masterclasses by Rhythm World faculty member and M.A.D.D. Rhythms’ founder, Bril Barrett, Ryan Lohoff, Jeremy Keeton, and Jay Fagen, along with various classes taught by Ja’Bowen Dixon who is also a Rhythm World 29 faculty member. Becky Cooper of Jump Rhythm Jazz Project at the Chicago Tap Theater says that Maliah is “a gifted rhythm maker – she has tons of natural talent and innate musicality.”

“I can’t wait for the chance to take classes with different teachers and further my dance education. I love to dance, it is my passion, but I especially love to tap dance. I love being able to take something boring, like my feet, and then create something amazing and creative, not to mention audibly pleasing. I have been dancing since I was 3 years old and tap dancing since I was 5. My tap education has stayed in the suburbs, and the chance to take it beyond that is something that I want. To be able to be a part of Chicago Tap dance and learn from Chicago Tap dancers will be revolutionary for me. I want to learn and grow, I want to expand my horizon and develop both old and new skills.”

Mimoza Kobayashi

Mimoza is a tap student from Japan. Two years ago, she saw a very exciting live tap performance. As it turns out, all of the performers were scholarship students from Chicago Human Rhythm Project. Mimoza was inspired to be like them. It became her dream to also win a scholarship from CHRP and attend Rhythm World.

“The scholarship for me is the first step of my dream!”

Sofia Alonso

Sofia is a 13 year old tap dancer from São Paulo, Brazil. She participated in two musicals in São Paulo: the “A Megerad Domada” as one of the protagonists singing, acting, dancing tap dancing; and also in a readaptation of a great critical success, the “Marias do Brasil”. As a Tap Dancer, she participated in several competitions, in the most important Brazilian Dance Festivals, obtaining the maximum awards in all of them. She participated as a guest in several professional and cultural events.

In Festivals and Workshops of Tap Dance in Brazil, she won scholarships for the important Festivals of the United States, the LA TAP Fest, the DC TAP Fest and also the Chicago Human Rhythm Project. She also won first place at the Cutting Contest at DC Tap Fest 2017 , and participated as a cast member of Jason Samuel Smith’s “Going the Miles” production at Tribute to Miles Davis in Los Angeles.

Taiga Nagai

Taiga is a scholar from Japan and a member of Central Kid Talent since the age of 3. He graduated from Shinozaki System. His love for tap started from seeing tap dance in a musical. From then, he started to tap at the tender age of 4 and studied with his teacher, Ms. Yukiko, from the age of 8. Taiga has performed at National Tap Day, Tokyo International Tap Festival, and more. He also performed with ARTN Youth Company as a sub-leader for company performances. Currently, he serves as the ARTN Company and ARTN Youth Company leader. In 2015, he auditioned for the Japan Tap Dance Scholarship Program (JTSP) and came to the United States to participate in the Chicago Tap Festival, representing Japan as a scholarship student. He also appeared in a performance at Rhythm World commemorating the 25th anniversary of CHRP and returned in 2017. As part of ARTN Company, he appeared in New York at The Big Apple Tap Festival in 2017. Then, he returned to Rhythm World in 2018 to win the Student Cutting Contest to make him one of our 2019 scholars!

“The reason I come to this festival is because I get something that I cannot get in Japan, and I can find my task. I think that what the scholarship means is a feeling of gratitude to parents who are always paying money and a chance to improve their skills.”

Zayvion Rubio

Zayvion has been studying tap and hip-hop for 10 years. He’s danced at many workshops and festivals. He has had classes at the L.A. Tap Fest, Flint Michigan Festival, and has attended Rhythm World. Zayvion has competed at Studio De Forest Dance and has done 10 years of recitals. He’s won many awards, including one year of competition placing 1st overall, Mr. Starquest, and Mr. Tribute. To add to that, Zayvion has attended workshops  such as Hip-Hop Monsters and Mr. Spotlight, and he has performed at CHRP, Navy Pier, senior citizen homes and stages across suburbs of Chicago and Chicago since the age of 5. Nico Rubio, Zayvion’s teacher and Rhythm World 29 faculty member, has noticed an “incline in his abilities” since the summer albeit Zayvion’s “tap skills have always been good for his age.”

“I have a hard time focusing, but when I dance it helps me to learn to concentrate on my goals!… I still really want to be a professional Tap Dancer! Just like my family! I also want to add to my ‘Collection of Steps’ I have learned (stolen) over the years. One of my goals is also to travel. Without the extra teachers and opportunities the festival’s and the scholarship give, I may not achieve that goal.”