Since 2002, the first Sunday in February or March has been special for Candy Braden’s tap classes. After the trauma of September 11th, 2001, Candy has prepared her classes to perform in a unique program which she has named the “Shuffle Exchange.” Saddened at the events of the fall, Candy wanted to give to her students a way to celebrate their talents and to offer their friends and families an afternoon of entertainment that only they could provide.
The Shuffle Exchange takes place in the Ballet Studios. There are no costumes except for a coordinated black top, and the audience sits on the floor or on a few chairs and benches. At the appointed hour, the dancers arrive to rehearse their dance one last time. “We are among friends and family,” they remind each other and urge their fellow dancers to “smile.” Candy circulates from class to class, along with her assistant teacher Joy, to encourage the classes to relax and enjoy themselves.
Dressed in black shirts with an “iTap” logo, the students of all age ranges (middle-school to “seniors”) rehearse their dances for the last time. Then it is show time! First there is a warm-up stretch routine in which every dancer participates. Then Candy introduces her classes one by one: first the beginners, then the intermediate classes and then the advanced dancers. Class members take their place, at first hesitant, then with confidence, and start to tap. The music plays and they dance – each with a dance they have worked on to perfect since September.
As a special reward to her students, Candy and her dance partner Jim perform a favorite Broadway routine. Candy, who never stops dancing – having taught all of the multiple dances and led her classes through each of their routines, congratulates her students for their skillful performances and declares that this year’s Tap Shuffle has come to an end. “Treats in the break room!” she says, and leads the crowd down the hall to celebrate their success with food and drink and smooth piano jazz played by one of the multi-talented tap students.