The Short Story
Pamela Hetherington is a Philadelphia tap dancer. Her artistic work aims to expand the boundaries of jazz tap, both as a soloist, a choreographer, and a composer. She was a principle dancer with Tap Team Two & Company, under the direction of Robert F. Burden, Jr., from 1996-2011, during which time she performed widely in major theaters and festivals all over Philadelphia and the East Coast. Those experiences led her to imagine and produce dozens of tap dance and live music events in Philadelphia, and in 2014, she created Take It Away Dance, a tap dance and live music company has been presented consistently in Philadelphia and New York. Her work has been presented by Jazz Bridge (Neighborhood Concert), Philadelphia Jazz Project (7x7 Series), Creative Philadelphia (City Hall Presents), The Barnes Foundation (1st Sunday Series), Allentown Art Museum (3rd Thursday Series), Dixon Place (8 in Show, 30-30-30), and Symphony Space (Stam-Pede). She has an original jazz composition published in the Philadelphia Real Book and is a featured recording artist on the “Whitman Project” mixtape, published by The Philadelphia Jazz Project. Pam has been interviewed about her work on Articulate (WHYY) and The Arts Desk (WRTI), and she was recognized in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Dance Teacher Magazine for her work with The Philadelphia Community Tap Project. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania, where she is an active member of the Performing Arts Council, and a Master's Degree in English from University of Virginia. Since 2015, she has owned and directed Sound Space Performing Arts, a percussive dance space in North Philadelphia, where she instructs dozens of classes a week and spearheads new initiatives that keep tap dance alive in Philadelphia.
Pam’s Dance History In a Nutshell
Pam grew up dancing at her neighborhood studio in Northeast Philadelphia and began her serious training at the age of 10 with Stephan Love, the late director of Next Generation Dance Theater. Through Next Generation, she was exposed to such master teachers as Leon Evans, Bernard Gaddis, Delphine Mantz, Alicia Craig, Carla Craig Krochak and Jaye Allison. These teachers not only trained technique but also believed in the value of building performance skills. Pam performed ALL over the city, in major shows, outdoor festivals, summer concerts…Yes, everywhere! (Read Pam’s blog for the history and the stories). She continued her studies as a teen at the Jazz Center, Philadanco, Koresh Dance Center, Kumquat (on South Street), Susan Hess and the legendary Rita Rue School of Dance in the Mayfair section. In 1995, when she was 15, Pam met LaVaughn Robinson at an adult night class at the University of the Arts, and LaVaughn introduced her to Robert F. Burden, Jr. in 1996. Her tap dance training and experience expanded during those years, as she performed around the city with Tap Team Two and became introduced to Philadelphia tap legends like Henry Meadows, Libby Spencer and international legends like Buster Brown, during the early days of the Philadelphia National Tap Dance Day celebrations.
Her college years took her to the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a part of the campus’s modern dance group, Penn Dance. In 1999, she also founded the school’s first tap dance performance group, Soundworks, which is still in existence! It’s sort of an odd turn of events that Pam practiced much more modern dance in her early 20s than she did tap dance, and she credits this time as what sparked her interest in movement and concert choreography. When she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia in 2003, she joined two modern dance companies - Miki Liszt Dance Company and Prospect Dance Group - and she performed frequently in Charlottesville and in Southern Virginia from 2003-2006. She also had the wonderful chance to open the show for THE Tony Bennett at the Paramount Theater in downtown Charlottesville, in 2004.
As it always does, tap dance kept finding her, and her years in Virginia laid the groundwork not just for her eventual interest in choreography but also her teaching career. In the course of three years, she moved into a position where she was directing and teaching most of the dance programming at the Charlottesville Department of Recreation, interacting with and inspiring students ages 3-83.
Meeting Heather Cornell in 2010 drastically changed the trajectory of her tap dancing into working with jazz music: including improvisation, composition, arranging and now, recording. She built relationships, opened venues and incited collaborations with many Philadelphia jazz musicians, and she began presenting her original music and dance compositions through Take It Away Dance, building a reputation that took her work to all of the presented venues and series in Philadelphia, and into New York at Dixon Place and Symphony Space. She has been an invited/featured jazz tap soloist at LaRose Jazz Club, South, Drummers, and Maureen's Jazz Cellar, and her newest project is touring with “Swing Two/Swing Three,” her collaboration with piano-vocalist, Erica Corbo, and saxophonist, Tim Price. Her first recording, produced by the Philadelphia Jazz Project, will be released in 2019.
A dance instructor since 1998, her first job as an 18-year-old teacher was leading the tap program at Chestnut Street Dance Academy (now Urban Movement Arts) in downtown Philadelphia. In the twenty years since then, she has honed her craft by leading hundreds of classes and directing performing arts programs, for people of all ages, at studios, recreation centers, universities, summer camps, public schools, private schools, festivals, conventions and more on the East Coast. A few of her notable dance education positions include: Villanova University, University of Pennsylvania, The Baldwin School, Abington Friends, Millennium Dance Complex Philadelphia, DEA Youth Dance Program, Charlottesville Department of Recreation, Millville School District, West Park Cultural Center and The Arc of Philadelphia. With an eventual aim towards opening her own stand-alone studio, she started a private lessons business in 2010, which she was able to scale eventually into her own brick-and-mortar studio in 2015. She is a a forward-thinking pioneer in dance education. Sound Space Performing Arts is an outgrowth of her dance education experiences and fills a need for a dance environment where children are encouraged to grow as thinking, creative, innovative artists.
Community Outreach Work
Pam is a consistently visible ambassador for tap dance in Philadelphia and considers accessibility to the arts one of her deepest passions. Starting in 2008, she founded and directed eleven installments of the community tap and jazz music series, Philly Tap Teaser, which has now scaled into The Philadelphia Community Tap Project, a slate of educational and performance programs which are accessible to anyone the Philadelphia area. Through this platform, she produced and presented brand-new work by the leaders of tap dance, including Heather Cornell, Dorothy Wasserman, Jane Goldberg, Max Pollak and Ray Hesselink. Through The Philadelphia Community Tap Project, since 2015, she organizes and produces the city-wide celebration for National Tap Dance Day. On behalf of her work for The Philadelphia Community Tap Project, she has received artistic support from the Barra Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Small but Mighty Arts, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.