Setting the tempo
Daniel Borak cannot imagine a life without his shoes. He sets the tempo with the metal tips on his soles.
Daniel Borak’s feet are seldom still — because his passion is tap dancing. His shoes create fiery rhythms while he dances at a furious pace to an elaborate choreography. But he also masters gentler and slower tap rhythms. When on the stage, his entire body is in action, melting into the music, whose power is enhanced by his dancing. Rhythm is his language, shoes his instrument. Occasionally he adds a little juggling to his act. “Tap dancing is an art form that offers countless possibilities,” enthuses Borak, celebrated by the media as the Fred Astaire from Winterthur.
This might sound like a quote from a movie, but in fact I am already living my dream.
This is where he, now 25 years old, was born. Today he and his mother run their own school of dancing, the DanceStudio Libussa. It was she, a trained ballerina and versatile dance teacher, and Michael Jackson who stirred the youngster’s passion for dance and tap dancing. “I was always fascinated by the combination of percussion and dance. When, at the tender age of five, I saw my mother teach tap dancing, I was hooked,” remembers Borak. Meanwhile he has already won eleven world champion titles in tap dancing, but this has by no means gone to his head. “Contests might be important, but there is simply no such thing as the best tap dancer in the world.”
Rhythm in his shoes
Borak’s most important work tools are his shoes. He’s not even sure exactly how many pairs he has in his wardrobe. Each pair is a little different, however, because many factors play a role in shaping the sound: the shape of the shoe, the texture of the sole and finally the metal taps. These are usually made from hard aluminum. One is at the toe of the shoe while the other is attached to the heel. “The toe taps are used to create the higher, lighter sounds. You use the heel tips to make deeper sounds, in a way like bass drums in the percussion section,” explains Borak. The toe taps are also slightly crowned, creating a small hollow space between the metal and the sole — a resonator that amplifies the sound.
In the mood to listen?
Another factor affecting the tone is the screw arrangement. Some tips are fixed to the sole with three screws, others with just one. “I prefer an arrangement with three screws because I find it important for the metal to be very tightly fixed to the shoe,” explains Borak. Tips attached with just one screw tend to get loose and start vibrating, which creates a slight rattle. In Borak’s case, shoes don’t last very long. “I have been using a pair for a show for the last seven months and they will soon have to be replaced,” he tells us.
On the road a lot
This is hardly a surprise, given the amount of work he does. He wears his tap dancing shoes several hours every day, teaching his pupils or rehearsing for his next appearance. His tours take him to many countries all around the world — from Germany to the Czech Republic and also to the USA. “That is simply the country for tap dancing. After all, the art form was invented there,” says Borak. He is always looking for new projects he can bring to fruition. “I would love to integrate all my experiences into a full-length solo program.” And, of course, he’s always on the look-out for new shoes. “I havejust found out about a supplier offering tap boots. I am anxious to try them out.”
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This article was first published in summer 2015.