Denise Caston is today’s featured dancer on 10 Questions With….
1. How did you become involved with dance?
It started when I was 3, taking tap lessons in a teacher’s basement. That’s all I did for 8 years until I decided to start studying all of the disciplines.
2. What are you currently doing in the field?
I founded and direct the Detroit Tap Repertory, produce the annual Motor City Tap Fest, am on faculty at tap festivals and workshops around the country, and perform in various shows from time to time.
3. You were a Rockette—what was the best part about your time with the group?
The whole experience was wonderful, and grueling, and demanding. It was the first job I was ever hired for, and it took me to a level that I never thought I was capable of achieving. It created a work ethic that I wouldn’t have without that experience.
4. What is the most valuable advice you have received from a teacher or mentor?
Hmmm… there is so much to choose from. Kat Wildish: “Look cool. Pretend you did it.” – Robert Reed: “Make the hard stuff look easy, and the easy stuff look hard.” – Linda Haberman: “Don’t touch me!” I had to stay after Rockette rehearsals my first year and Linda, who I look to with utmost admiration, was rehearsing one of the kicklines with me. We are NOT to put pressure on the ladies’ backs next to us in the line.
5. What has been your greatest challenge?
In 2005, I was hit by a bus and my skull was fractured in 7 places, I had an epidural hematoma and a pulverized temporal bone. I was in a coma for 6 days and in the hospital for almost 3 weeks. That was the most difficult time in my life. I did another season of Rockettes after the accident, but getting my career back on track took some big changes and redefining of my goals. If that hadn’t happened though, I doubt that I would have this wonderful successful tap festival. Producing it has been so rewarding, and challenging!
6. Do you have any advice for dancers that want to go on to a professional career?
Ohhh, where to start! Be thick skinned, open-minded, seek the best resources for training, and never stop taking class and growing! There’s so much more but that’s a good start.
7. How did the Motor City Tap Fest come about and what is it like?
Motor City Tap Fest is 4 days of master classes with leading tap artists, a tap jam, Participants’ Showcase, concert (MASTERS OF TAP), and a ‘Meet The Faculty’ luncheon. Having grown up in Metro Detroit and with years of professional experience under my belt, I wanted Detroit to have a thriving tap community like other big cities. There was no tap festival here, and with tap being my first love and having so many connections in the tap community, I wanted to fill this important cultural niche in Detroit.
8. What has been the most surprising thing you have learned about dance in your career?
I continue to learn every day, but I have come to a wonderful point in my career where I can honestly say that I just dance for myself, that I train every day for my own satisfaction and nothing else. If dancers train all the time with that next audition or job always on their minds, it takes the joy out of it and becomes so much harder to be content.
9. What do you enjoy most about your life in dance?
I dance every day. I create every day. While sometimes I crave a ‘normal’ salaried job, I enjoy the freedom I have to embark on adventures when I want to. I recently went to the Stockholm Tap Festival, by myself, just for fun.
10. What’s next for you?
I always love trying new things and seeing where they take me. I have begun to start working with an acting coach. My ambition is to just hone my skills for me, but if something great comes out of doing that, I welcome it and will be along for the ride!
BIO: Denise Caston was a Radio City Rockette for 10 years and toured nationally with the Tony Award winning musical, Crazy For You. Denise has also had the honor of performing the choreography of Savion Glover at a showcase in New York City. She performed on tour in Australia in 2002, dancing all over the continent in Elvis to the Max. Her credits also include film, television, commercials, and industrials.
Teaching credits include Tradition In Tap (NYC), Gregg Russell’s Tap Into the Network, the St. Louis Tap Festival, the Oklahoma City Tap Festival, classes at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway, as well as The Rockette Experience© at Radio City Music Hall. Her choreography has been seen in many productions in which she also performed, including shows at Caesars Windsor in Ontario, Canada.
Denise currently directs the Detroit Tap Repertory, which she founded in 2008. This ensemble performed in the 30th Annual Detroit International Jazz Festival, as well as other prestigious events including choreography showcases in New York, Chicago, and metropolitan Detroit. [Dance Spirit Magazine – “The Detroit Tap Repertory [has] some serious talent.”]