Introducing Katie Padgett Brown

Katie Padgett Brown is a nationally renowned tap dancer, choreographer, and instructor, and we’re lucky to have her as part of our faculty. She joined Arts Together this past September, but you would never know she’s one of our newest teachers – she effortlessly fits in with our creative, collaborative culture.

Her accomplishments are many. She has taught at dance studios in Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and North Carolina, and was invited to perform in the annual Kennedy Center Gala twice. Katie has also performed at New York City’s Lincoln Center in Broadway’s Greatest Showstoppers with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Marvin Hamlisch. Her students have gone on to dance with The Julliard School, Mark Morris Dance Group, Boston Ballet, various Broadway shows, and numerous college dance programs.

Katie has an openness and approachability that is kind, patient, and inviting. She communicates and relates to individuals of all ages with
a natural ease. Katie currently teaches Shake, Rattle N Roll and Multi-Arts Mornings for 3-to-5-year-olds, but this summer, she’s leading a brand new tap dance camp called Tap to the Beat for our Junior Sparks (ages 6-8) at Raleigh Charter High School in July, which she shares more about below.

Growing up in a musical family, she recalls her parent’s support and encouragement to pursue dance and creative ventures being influential in her life. Read on for more of her reflections on creative expression, dance, her students, and upcoming summer camp Tap to the Beat.

 KATIE PADGETT BROWN

KATIE PADGETT BROWN

 DANCING AT WOLF TRAP FOUNDATION FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS.

DANCING AT WOLF TRAP FOUNDATION FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS.

How and when did you become interested in dance, especially tap dance?

I started dancing in Kindergarten. I wanted to be just like my big sister, who was about 12 at the time. I began in a combo class of tap and ballet, and started taking jazz in third grade and other styles in middle school. From the time I started, tap always appealed to me. I think I liked making noise, but the rhythm and structure of tap also appealed to me and always just clicked. I became more focused on tap in college when I had the opportunity to study it with Gene Medler at Elon College (now Elon University). A new world of possibility within tap was opened up to me, and my hunger and love for the dance grew rapidly.

 KATIE IN A TAP MASTERCLASS AT ELON COLLEGE LED BY VAN PORTER.

KATIE IN A TAP MASTERCLASS AT ELON COLLEGE LED BY VAN PORTER.

What has your professional journey looked like in dance, choreography, and instruction?

It's actually quite a coincidence of “right time/right place.” I had graduated from college (with a music degree), was living in Durham, had rent and bills to pay, and no job. I picked up the Sunday paper for the classifieds and found a listing that said “Tap Dance Teacher Needed. Call for Info.” I called, had an interview and demo class the next day, and was offered a part-time teaching job the following day. From that time on, there was no doubt that I wanted to continue teaching, and I haven't stopped since!

 PREPARING FOR HER BALLET RECITAL  GREENSLEEVES  AT AGE 8.

PREPARING FOR HER BALLET RECITAL GREENSLEEVES AT AGE 8.

 KATIE IN KINDERGARTEN JUST STARTING DANCE.

KATIE IN KINDERGARTEN JUST STARTING DANCE.

How did you become involved with Arts Together?

I relocated to the Raleigh area in the summer of 2017. Prior to that, I was living in the suburbs of Washington, DC, teaching at two studios – one in Virginia and one in the District. I worked with Meg's* daughter, Sarah, and when she heard I was moving to the Raleigh area, she immediately put us in touch. I started teaching for Arts Together in September of 2017. 
*Meg Revelle is the Executive Director of Arts Together.

What excites you most about your summer camp Tap to the Beat from July 23-27?

I’m really excited to bring tap dance to Arts Together! I think the kids will enjoy the rhythmic side of this dance form, and who doesn't like to make noise?

Can you describe your instruction style?

I fully believe that all students can succeed if they are given the proper tools. I like to give the dancers many different ways to think about what they're working on. What part of the foot are we using? How can our posture or stance help or hinder the execution of the step or skill? What's the rhythm? How do I count this? What sound am I creating? Am I using the right or the left? Is it loud or soft? I encourage the dancers to do a lot of compare/contrast work and to explore the right and wrong way to do things. This way they understand how and why we do something a certain way, instead of just mimicking what I’m doing. Though that's definitely part of it!

 KATIE INSTRUCTING OUR MULTI-ARTS MORNINGS CLASS FOR CHILDREN AGES 3-5. IN THE VIDEO BELOW, SHE LEADS THEM IN A FUN MOVEMENT EXERCISE.

KATIE INSTRUCTING OUR MULTI-ARTS MORNINGS CLASS FOR CHILDREN AGES 3-5. IN THE VIDEO BELOW, SHE LEADS THEM IN A FUN MOVEMENT EXERCISE.

What can parents and youth expect from this camp?

Loads of fun! We'll work on technique, study several important figures in tap dance, watch footage of famous tap dancers, and create our own choreography. We’ll also work on some traditional tap repertoire, such as the Shim Sham and the Coles Stroll and Walk Around.

What are tap’s unique attributes that make it stand out from other dance genres, like ballet or modern?

Goodness, where to start! There's the obvious points – the shoes and the rhythm. But I love tap, because it is truly for anybody. Tap master Honi Coles once said, “If you can walk, you can tap dance.” I truly believe this. I've had students as young as 3 and as old as 73 who have connected with this American art form. Tap dance is a bit friendlier on the body than some other styles can be, and there's definitely longevity in the art form. I also appreciate the range of styles within tap – there's definitely a style for everyone. 

As an instructor, can you recall a meaningful moment or poignant interaction with a student that’s impacted you?

These are so plentiful. But I would have to say that I enjoy the little moments. Those instances when a student makes a connection or is able to approach a step or skill from a different perspective, either with or without prompting. Or when a student attends a performance and comes back with a fire and excitement about their classwork and study. Or when I show a piece of historical tap footage, and the student goes home and watches additional tap videos on their own. I love feeling that connection and sharing my passion with the dancers. 

 KATIE WITH HER YOUTH TAP ENSEMBLE AT JOY OF MOTION DANCE CENTER IN DC.

KATIE WITH HER YOUTH TAP ENSEMBLE AT JOY OF MOTION DANCE CENTER IN DC.

 KATIE'S STUDENTS AT CUPPETT PERFORMING ARTS CENTER IN VIENNA, VA.

KATIE'S STUDENTS AT CUPPETT PERFORMING ARTS CENTER IN VIENNA, VA.

What are some ways you’ve seen your students grow beyond their mastery of dance skills?

I love to see my students support and encourage one another. The tap community commonly refers to themselves as the “tap family,” and seeing my dancers help one another, practice with one another, and share ideas with one another is probably tops on the list. Of course, it's always rewarding when my students continue to dance in college and into adulthood.

Before I moved to Raleigh from the Washington, DC area, I was dancing in a tap company based in Fairfax, VA. The company was comprised of tap friends I'd been dancing with for years, but also a few dancers who used to be my students when they were in high school. Seeing them as “grown-ups” with careers who still felt their love for and drive to be involved with the tap community always made me smile. 

Another former student is in graduate school in Michigan where she is working on her Masters in Music, and her research project is structured around tap dance improvisation and how it relates to music, meter, mixed meter, tempo, and rhythm. Her ability to take her love of tap and combine that with her scholarly work has impressed me beyond measure. She truly combined her passions and has been presenting her work around the country this spring. 

 AT REHEARSAL FOR  BROADWAY'S GREATEST SHOWSTOPPERS  IN NEW YORK CITY'S LINCOLN CENTER.

AT REHEARSAL FOR BROADWAY'S GREATEST SHOWSTOPPERS IN NEW YORK CITY'S LINCOLN CENTER.

 BEHIND STAGE WITH FELLOW TAPPERS TO PERFORM IN  BROADWAY'S GREATEST SHOWSTOPPERS .

BEHIND STAGE WITH FELLOW TAPPERS TO PERFORM IN BROADWAY'S GREATEST SHOWSTOPPERS.

How has creative expression impacted your life?

I can't remember a time without dance and music. My parents were both very into music, and we often had music playing around the house. This ran the gamut from Gregorian Chant, to Mozart, to the Doobie Brothers, Three Dog Night, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin. I was always supported and encouraged to cultivate my own creativity, and my family really understood the value of this focus, even as a young child. Without dance and without music, I am not sure what I would do to get by. 

How are you intentional about cultivating creativity both professionally and personally?

In our culture and society today, I think this can become difficult. An emphasis seems to be placed on being busy and being involved in many activities and hobbies. But this doesn't always line up for me with finding time to be creative and to nurture that side of myself.

I try to carve out time for myself to create, not just teach. The teaching side is wonderful and incredibly fulfilling, but the personal creativity is necessary as well. I seek out opportunities to attend tap festivals, workshops, and performances. Social media and the online world has been helpful with this as well – there are many opportunities to work with others via online platforms, learn contemporary and traditional choreography from videos, and share ideas with friends and colleagues across the world.

What does it mean to be part of the Arts Together creative community and what has your experience been like?

Family. Inclusiveness. Curiosity. Joy. Support. Openness. My experience at Arts Together has been wonderful! Everyone is so welcoming and encouraging. From day one, it just felt like the right place to be.


Kari Martin Hollinger, Communications & Development Associate
All photos and video courtesy Katie Padgett Brown, except multi-arts mornings image and video.

Raleigh Charter High School – A Hidden Gem in Downtown Raleigh

Summer camps are on the horizon for Arts Together, now that spring has finally arrived! Summer is a particularly special time, because not only do we offer camps in our flagship building on St. Mary’s Street, we also partner with Raleigh Charter High School (RCHS) to hold our Summer Sparks Junior and Senior camps in their impressive facility. This satellite location allows us to provide even more multi-arts fun for 6-to-12-year-olds!

 RALEIGH CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL

RALEIGH CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL

Only a five minute drive from Arts Together, RCHS facilities include a black box theater, art room, music room, science lab, computer lab, picnic area, and multiple open green spaces/play areas. These additional places allow us to provide unique camp programming for our Summer Sparks that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to offer! Plus, RCHS is near Fred Fletcher Park, giving campers the opportunity to explore even more.

A former camper, who’s now 13 and has aged out of Summer Sparks, recalls the RCHS outdoor area. “There is a great eating area outside with picnic tables perfect for snack, lunch, outdoor crafts, and whatever game or activity campers dream up. I think RCHS is an awesome place for summer camps. I can’t wait to maybe go back as a Counselor-In-Training.”

Parents frequently rave about the convenience of RCHS. "Drop-off and pick up couldn't be easier at RCHS,” a mother shared. “No busy roads to walk across, and you don't even have to get out of your car! I can get both of my kids to Arts Together camps on time, even when one is at RCHS and one is at Arts Together, because the RCHS drop-off is so easy.”

This summer, we’re particularly excited to offer several brand new Junior and Senior camps. Junior Sparks (ages 6-8) can take Tap to the Beat, a tap dance camp with nationally renowned instructor Katie Padgett Brown, and Senior Sparks (ages 9-12) can express their creativity in Mini Maker by building their own imaginative, tiny worlds from everyday objects. One 10-year-old expressed her excitement about returning to camp. "All the teachers are great! I liked creating sculptures, painting, doing collages, and especially fabric design and sewing last summer," she exclaimed. "I love the Summer Sparks camps and can't wait to go back this summer!"

2014-07-01 13.58.06.jpg

Campers often experience personal growth during their week of Summer Sparks. “I’ll never forget the day my daughter came home from Arts Together’s Summer Sparks camp and had tried eating several herbs they’d planted,” a parent explained. “I have NO IDEA how Ms. Sheri got a kid who turns her nose up at anything green to talk on and on about how much she loves basil.”

If you're on the fence about our Summer Sparks camps, don't wait to register any longer. These unique camps always fill quickly! Take a look at our full list of offerings for Junior Sparks and
Senior Sparks.


Kari Martin Hollinger, Communications & Development Associate

Let's Make a Circle

This is often heard at Arts Together. It’s the way our preschool classes begin. It’s how most of our dance classes start—with passing the energy. Art classes come together around a table to create a project. Drama classes often conclude with affirmations in the form of a circle. Our staff meetings gather the same way – a circle of voices and viewpoints. Everyone is heard and valued. It’s how groups work best because it encourages collaboration, connection and community.

It’s a circle. Not a line with a start and a finish. Not a triangle with a top and a bottom. Not a square with neatly defined edges. The symbol of a circle has “magical value as a protective agent” – it is inclusive and caring. Circular shapes connote movement, as in dance – they are dynamic, creative and active. They symbolize birth, growth, wholeness and the infinite nature of energy. Some of the first marks we make as children are “scribbles,” those rounded forms that signify the beginning of the creative process.

And now, with circles, we are excited to launch Arts Together’s new brand! We involved many circles of people as we created our new brand. We began with a diagnostic survey of many of our constituents: current and former parents, staff, students, board members, community leaders and supporters. A Brand Identity Task Force was appointed that represented this larger group. We are so grateful to everyone who took the time to offer thoughts and feedback. We are fortunate to have been led by an expert strategic design team at Forma.

We learned a lot over the course of this brand development process and much of what we already knew was confirmed. In spite of the very broad offerings (what we offer), Arts Together’s spirit and attitude (how and why we deliver those offerings) remains remarkably consistent and aligned, across all programs, all classes, and all ages. There is a shared understanding among our stakeholders: Arts Together is a magical place. We cultivate creativity and celebrate individuality.

The challenge faced by the Brand Identity Task Force was a difficult one: how can we best communicate our culture and our shared values through a new brand? The result is simple and yet a real symbol of who we are: the main symbol includes connecting circles as the “bowl” of the lower case letter “a.” To give us flexibility, there is also a system of symbols where the “bowl” of the “a” changes depending on the program—a child’s handprint represents our Preschool Division while a silhouette of a dancer represents our Rainbow Dance Company.

This system allows flexibility to promote a single idea, program or division, while visually and consistently connecting all components of Arts Together. This flexibility will also allow new ideas and programs to be introduced in the future. We believe our new look captures the spirit of Arts Together; who we are and who we can be.

By nature a new identity/logo is empty when introduced – and therefore meaningless. It’s basically empty until we begin to fill it with meaning over time. We are already beginning to do that and I’d like to share a story with you: When our designer was looking for an image to embody the Rainbow Dance Company, we turned to recent photographs of our dance company. The image chosen to represent Rainbow was of Carter Crew in a piece for her Senior performance. It just so happens that Carter is our founder Lemma Mackie’s granddaughter. Another generation moves Arts Together forward. Another story is filled with meaning.

Full circle—the connection we all share through this magical place. Thank you for being part of our community at Arts Together!


Meg Revelle, Executive Director