DeWitt: Tapping into talent with Barry Shulman

Barry Shulman is not a stranger to the stage. He's tapped his way into such hits as 42nd Street and She Loves Me, and has choreographed numerous others like Evita and Fiddler on the Roof. For years, touring venues was a focus of his tap career, but now the tap dancer turned lawyer is teaching it instead.

The Jewish Community Center in DeWitt is home to Tuesday night tap with Shulman, where he offers three separate, adult classes for beginners, intermediate, and advanced students.

"I carry three bags of shoes in to every class [each week]," Shulman said. "So if somebody is not sure if they want to make the financial commitment yet, there are shoes for them."

Shulman's "no pressure" approach to dance creates a fun environment and keeps people coming back.

"What's great about tap, and I think what people like almost the best, is that nobody cares," he said. "You don't get it right, you do get it right. You go home, worked out for an hour it's very much more mental than physical in the beginning level. And you say to yourself 'I didn't think I could do that. I can do that.' And that's worth everything."

Shulman, a 68-year-old Ithaca native, began tapping at five years old; his mother had been a "tap kid" as well. One of his first dance teachers was even a Broadway star.

"She had the best legs on Broadway," he said, adding that her husband was a conductor for George Gershwin. "They moved to Ithaca to raise their kids in a more rural environment, so I had really superior people who worked to teach me, who were lovely and sort of brought me in."

Over the years, Shulman's talent has spilled onto others who have gone on to pursue more than just a fun night out. He has one student now who starred in the national tour of Mama Mia, another who was in Oklahoma on Broadway, and yet another who played Lancelot in the touring musical, Spamalot.

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