If you watched the season premiere of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” you caught Chloe Arnold’s “Syncopated Ladies,” the fierce all-women tap dance group from Washington, DC that’s competing in the show’s first-ever crew battle for a chance to be featured in the finale. But even if you don’t tune into the show you’ll want to get familiar with this inspiring dance troupe who’s well on their way to becoming household names.
The ladies only appeared on SYTYCD for a brief segment as they were pitted against former “America’s Best Dance Crew”-winning group “Poreotics,” but the female tappers fly footwork to a mashup of Beyonce’s “Bow Down,” “Flawless” and “Run The World” — and sexy style to boot — left the audience yearning for more. When Fox opened up the voting polls and asked viewers to vote on which crew they wanted to see in the finale through Tweets, #SynchLadies, became the number one trending topic in the US on Twitter helping the group cinch a round one win with a 67% vote. And not surprisingly so.
The group, which is also composed of professional dancers Maud Arnold (Chloe’s sister), Sarah Reich, Anissa Irving, Pamela Yasutake and Melissa Tannus has caught the eye of women dancers like Debbie Allen, Mya and Beyonce herself, long before this appearance on network TV and between them they’ve nailed a robust list of appearance in high-profile stage performances, music videos and TV shows (Chloe and Maud appeared on “Boardwalk Empire” last season as dancers for the show’s fictional “Onyx Club”).
“We are professional tap dancers, but I feel like we are a really good match for this show in terms of that all the dancers in the company are trained in multiple styles of dance,” Chloe Arnold tells HelloBeautiful about her group. “They are truly top technicians, professionals and experts at their technique and being able to execute choreography and improvisation, then they have style aspect because of all the other training they had during their life.”
We saw a small glimpse of that last week on SYTYCD, but what the cameras haven’t shown is how this talented and dedicated group is well on their way to realizing their mission of bring tap to a commercial platform while maintaining the integrity for the art. All while giving women a distinct voice within the craft.
For Chloe Arnold, that mission began taking shape during childhood. She started training in various dance forms at six-years-old, including ballet and tap — the dance style that ultimately enraptured her. “Saivion Glover came to DC and I auditioned for his youth tap crew and that allowed me to do his residency in DC for several years,” Arnold says. “During that time, I got to meet famous tap dancers Gregory Hines, The Nicholas Brothers and Ted Levvy and that changed my life because it really made me want to tap.” At 16, she was cast in Debbie Allen’s production of Brother’s of the Knight at The Kennedy Center in DC which opened the door for Arnold to work with the iconic entertainer for over a decade as a performer, choreographer and producer. But while Allen has served as an overall dance mentor for the tapper, Arnold has found that there are still few women that specialize in tap dance, specifically, to model a commercial career after.
“If you ask anyone on the street, ‘what tap dancers do you know?’ if they say anybody, then chances are, it’s going to be a man,” Arnold says. “These men are all people who I’ve admired and who have inspired me, but there comes a time where [women] need a voice too.” She’s spent her life looking for ways to elevate women and the dance and appearing on Fox’s award-winning dance show has always been one dream strategy to realize the goal. For seasons, the show has been focused on individual competition, so while the Syncopated Ladies have been trying to find their way to the stage for seasons, it never worked out. But that wasn’t going to stop Arnold from trying.
“When something doesn’t exist, sometimes you have to create it,” she says. “I realized people weren’t necessarily take money and put it in a tap video, so I decided we’re going to do that and market it and we’re gonna hope it catches us.” It would be easy to say “the rest was history” at that point, but like most dreams, the road to achieving the goal took the scenic route.
Arnold attended Columbia University to study film, with a goal of bringing tap dance to TV & film, and fulfilled her dance passions by performing in New York in between classes. She spent her summers teaching at Debbie Allen Dance Academy and when it was time to graduate, like any good mentor, Allen probed the young star: “What are you going to do next?” Arnold didn’t have an answer at the time, but like many entertainers she packed her bags and moved to LA in hopes of figuring it out.
It was on the West Coast that she’d meet some of the women that she’d end up organizing into The Syncopated Ladies. “We danced in the same company so we started jamming together,” says Arnold. ” Then the jam sessions turned into me saying, ‘these groups of women are amazing, we need to start working on stuff.’ So, we did some choreography and we tried to put a little sass on it. It was nice and it was sweet, but when we first started, we didn’t have the level of confidence to kick down the door just yet.”
A job on a Sean Paul video and a chance meeting with Beyonce helped set the ball in motion for the gutsy, modernized choreography that The Syncopated Ladies perform today.
“I basically crashed the audition for Sean Paul’s music video ‘Give It Up To Me’ with my tap shoes and they ended up putting me in the video,” recalls Arnold. “The video’s choreographer Tanisha Scott and I had been working on tap, but I mixed in some dance hall moves. The choreography didn’t end up making the video but it inspired me to choreograph something to Sean Paul for our group and that turned the heat up on our style.” Then Arnold’s film school credentials landed her a job as a director’s assistant on the Bey’s music video “Upgrade U” where she got to witness the pop singers meticulous work, up close, which proved to be a “life-changing experience.” “When I saw this fierce presence and execution of Beyonce’s work and the way she rocks out so hard and doesn’t apologize for being phenomenal, while simultaneously making other people feel phenomenal and showing respect to them, I said ‘I want to do that in tap’,” says Arnold. “It set me on my mission and changed everything for me.”
With a soundtrack of Beyonce’s hits, Arnold began choreographing routines that looked like they could fit right in on tour alongside the singer’s all-women band and backup dancers. And after the group started posting videos of their work on YouTube, Beyonce noticed. “She shared our video to her millions of social media followers and I was so touched because it is so rare that women on such a huge platform take the time to support other women that are trying to make their way and striving to make their mark,” says Arnold. “I couldn’t believe she used her platform to help elevate ours…after that, the show found us and came calling.”
Now that they have the nation’s attention, the Syncopated Ladies want to help people understand that while the art of tap may not have the same visibility as, say, hip-hop or other forms of dance, it still has a place in today’s landscape. One day they hope to produce their own music to perform to with plans of become a full-fledged band, but for now, they’re making the connection by producing tap tribute videos to chart-topping hits by the likes of Rihanna and Katy Perry, in between professional jobs. “In terms of our mission of being today’s female tap band, we want to keep it funky, we want to keep it fresh, we want young people to vibe to it and groove to it and relate to it,” says Arnold.
Search the group’s handle, @SyncLadies , on Twitter and you’ll find a flood of messages from young women and other fans who were moved by seeing the women’s ferocious, hard-hitting performances topped off with a healthy dose of grace and poise. Arnold says the overwhelming reaction is giving her squad arsenal to keep pushing towards their mission. “I was reading the replies and the responses and they were just honestly, so touching. It’s been so inspiring is to see how our voice inspires young women.”
As The Syncopated Ladies continue to help carve out a lane for more young women to follow in the tap dance arena, Arnold’s advice for aspiring fancy feet is to first learn how to walk the tight rope of patience and determination. “You want it so bad and you want it right now but in dance, you must have that determination to say, ‘I’m going to keep fighting’ and then soon all these pieces of the puzzle start to come together and then you start to see what you imagined.”
One step at a time.
Watch “So You Think You Can Dance” on Fox, Wednesdays at 8/7c and be sure to look out for Chloe Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies as they storm the stage in the finale!
Check out the Beyonce tribute that caught the singer’s eye in the video below and visit the group’s website SyncopatedLadies.com to see more performances!
BLACK MUSIC MONTH: The Greatest Diva Moments Of All Time
1. Greatest Diva Moments Of All Time
In honor of Black Music Month, let’s take a trip down memory lane of the most divalicious moments from our favorite female performers of all time. From star-studded stage shows, unforgettable costumes and timeless music, check out the ladies who the define D.I.V.A!
2. RiRi Embraces The Nude Look At The CFDAs
No one can rock skin like Rihanna and she proved that at the 2014 CFDAs. She received the fashion icon award in a see-through gown with a pair of nude panties and no bra.
3. TLC Remain No. 1
With more than 65 million records sold worldwide, TLC are ranked as the best-selling American female group of all time. That’s why the mega success of their VH1’s "CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story" came has no surpass. The biopic scored the highest-rated original cable movie of 2013.
4. Whitney Houston’s Voice
From alto to the highest soprano, the late great Whitney Houston was known for having a very wide vocal range. Her crazy-long note in “I Will Always Love You” still gives us chills to this day. The record helped the “The Bodyguard” soundtrack sell over 45 million copies worldwide and become the best-selling soundtrack of all time.
5. Beyoncé Serenades The Obamas
Queen Bey couldn’t help fighting back the tears during her performance of “At Last” at President Obama's first inauguration ball. She went on to sing the national anthem at his second inaugural ceremony in 2013.
6. Alicia Keys Pays Homage To 90′s Girl Groups
Alicia Keys’ performance at the 2008 BET Awards was one to remember. She paid homage to three of the most successful R&b girl groups of all time, SWV, TLC and En Vogue.
7. Jennifer Hudson Steal The Show In ‘Dreamgirls’
J Hud’s performance of “And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going” stole the shine all the way from Beyonce in “Dreamgirls!” Honeslty, her performance changed lives!
8. Janet Jackson's Super Bowl Nipplegate
anet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s controversial Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction still has a life of it’s own 10 years later.
9. Lil Kim's Purple Pasty Outfit
Before the days of Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga, we counted on Kim for our red carpet jaw-droppers. In 1999, she attended the MTV Music Awards in a purple boob-baring number that Diana Ross couldn’t help but reach out and touch.
10. Ella Fitzgerald Is The First
In 1959, legendary songstress Ella Fitzgerald became the first Black woman to win a Grammy Award.
11. Mary J Helps Us Get Through
When Mary J. Blige dropped her “My Life” album in 1994 she spoke to girl girls that’s experience life. Songs "Not Gon' Cry,” "Be Happy" "All I Need” still help us get through.
12. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill broke two records at the 1999 Grammy Awards. She was the first woman ever to be nominated ten times in one year, and her win for Album of the Year made “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” the first hip-hop album to ever receive the award. It’s an ageless classic.
13. Diana Ross’ Hair
While this R&b super diva has reigned supreme over the music world since the 1960s, her big ultra-glam hair has inspired us to love what I've got on top!
14. Erykah Badu Show Off Her Booty Beauty
Ms. Badu made one of the best artistic statement of all time when she stripped down to her “booty beauty,” as she calls it, in her 2010 video “Window Seat.” “People are uncomfortable with sexuality that’s not for male consumption,” she explained. “Could be ‘cause I did it in public too. Do you think people would have been complaining if I had on high-heel shoes?” http://bit.ly/1oQAETm
15. Whitney Houston & Chaka Khan Join Forces
Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan’s performance of “I’m Every Woman” was star power overload at VH1’s “Save The Music” in 1999.
16. Patti LaBelle Defines Diva
Beyonce said “a diva is a female version of a hustler,” but according Ms. Patti LaBelle that’s a lie! “That word is used so loosely that I don’t even consider myself a diva. I always considered myself a woman who sings her heart out and who gives 120 percent,” she said. “All these little heifers who can’t sing are called divas!” http://bit.ly/1nJJPFE
17. Queen Latifah Demands U.N.I.T.Y.
The queen represented the ladies with her 1993 hit, which spoke out against sexism and violence against women.
18. Mariah Carey & Nicki Minaj’s Feud
With two divas at the judges’ table, the twelfth season of “American Idol’ was full heated arguments, eye rolls and outrageous outfit.
19. Kelis’ Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard
No one can deny that Kelis and her "Milkshake" owned the summer of 2003.
20. Alicia Key’s ‘Fallin’’ Dominates Radio
Alicia’s first single went on to be mega hit! She earned four Grammy Awards in 2002, including Song of the Year.
21. MC Lyte Is Hip-Hop's Pioneer Feminist
MC Lyte paved the way for many women in the rap game today. She became the first solo female rapper to release a full album in 1988 with Lyte as a Rock. Eve honored hip-hop's pioneer feminist at the 2013 BET Hip-Hop Awards, presenting her with the "I Am Hip Hop" trophy.
22. Tina Turner Passes The Torch To Queen Bey
Beyoncé and Tina Turner slayed the stage with a performance of “Proud Mary” live at the 2008 Grammy Awards.
23. Tina Turner Checks Aretha Franklin’s Ego
After Bey referred to Tina Turner as “the queen” during her Grammy tribute, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin took offense and called the comment a “cheap shot for controversy.” Anna Mae decided to set the record straight. “She’s the queen of soul, and I’m the queen of rock ‘n’ roll. There were so many kings and queens there that night. Her ego must be so big to think she was the only one." http://usat.ly/1hu37fF
24. Mariah Carey Rocks A Bedazzled Arm Sling
Mariah dislocated her shoulder in late 2013, but of course the show had to go on. The pop diva couldn’t just wear any old arm sling; it had to be feathered or bedazzled.
25. Nicki Minaj Reps For The Girls
The Young Money rapstress became the first and only female rapper to be featured on Forbes's Hip Hop Cash Kings list in 2011. Along with two multi-platinum albums, Nicki can thank the success of her endorsement deals with MAC Cosmetics, Adidas, Myx Fusions, Beats Electronics and her clothing line for the mega cash flow.
26. India Arie Makes A Hair Statement
Every black woman has had a defining hair experience, so when India Arie released “I Am Not My Hair” in 2006 we all related and sang in unison.
27. Aretha Franklin Puts A Gospel Twist On The National Anthem
The Queen of Soul received an honorary degree at Harvard’s 2014 commencement ceremony, and in return she took to the piano to sing a gospel-rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
28. Ashanti’s Body Though…
By the looks of these photos, there’s no doubt that the “Braveheart” singer’s been in the gym this year. She basically broke the internet when she shared this bikini pics on her Instagram account.
29. Eve Says Love Is Blind
The first lady of Ruff Ryders put a voice to so many women’s pain when she rapped her 1999 hit. "Love Is Blind," with vocals by Faith Evans.
30. Brandy & Monica “Make Up”
Fourteen years after the massive success of their Grammy Award-winning hit "The Boy Is Mine,” Brandy and Monica (our celebrity BFFs in our head) reunited for a new collaboration, titled "It All Belongs to Me.” If you were a fan of the R&B singers in the '90s then you know this was major!
31. Chaka Khan Is Badddddd
In 2012, Chaka Khan adopted a vegan diet and lost over 60 pounds. The Queen of Funk debuted her slimmer frame at the 38th Anniversary Benefit Concert For Jazz in Atlanta in 2012. Let’s just say she’s the definition of “Black don’t crack.”
32. Jennifer Lopez’s Dress, Yes THAT Dress
J.Lo’s green Versace dress at the 2000 Grammy Awards was voted one of the most iconic dress of all time. (This was before the age of Rihanna.) The sheer beauty is currently on display at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. “It was a nice dress. I had no idea it was going to become such a big deal,” the starlet said of its enormous media coverage.
33. Rihanna Reunites With Chris Brown
Rihanna is a walking example if not giving a f*** of what other people think. Even after their public domestic violence dispute, RiRi teamed back up with her on-again, off-again lover for a duets like “Birthday Cake,” “Nobody’s Business” and “Turn Up The Music.”
34. Any Time Aaliyah Danced
Aaliyah’s moves were always smooth and effortless, and even 13 years after her tragic death, her music, dance style and fashion still inspires us today.
35. Fantasia Wins “American Idol”
“American Idol” introduced us to Fantasia Barrino in 2004, and for that we will forever be grateful.
36. Destiny’s Child Reunites For The Super Bowl
Beyonce brought the house down at the 2013 Super Bowl halftime show, but her performance wouldn’t have been the same without the help of her former group mates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.