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HomeKarissa Royster

KARISSA ROYSTER 16  Buster Cooper Tap Scholarship

Karissa is a multi discipline dancer and performer with a strong background in ballet, jazz, modern, and rhythm tap. She began her early training at Colorado Academy of Dance and continued her studies at Dance Plus after moving back to her hometown, San Antonio. Karissa joined RPM Tap Ensemble in 2006, under the direction of Barbara Phillips, propelling her passion for tap, sharing her talent with her peers and the next young generation of dancers. She has performed at Soul to Sole Festival Showcase, Third Coast Rhythm Project Legacy Honors, Chicago Human Rhythm Project and LA Tap Festival Showcase.


Karissa was chosen, along with three other RPM members, to perform in the 5th Annual Beijing International Dance Festival as part of a national Ensemble in “JUBA! Masters of Tap,” before an audience of 2,900 people in the historic Beijing Exhibition Hall.  The China Performing Arts Agency commissioned the Chicago Human Rhythm Project to produce this show, along with additional support for the trip from the Chicago Human Rhythm Project and its funders, including the Chicago Community Trust, the Joyce Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council.


Karissa has been studying under Barbara Phillips for six years, who introduced her to rhythm tap. She has also had the opportunity to take class with many tap masters including “Lady Di” Dianne Walker, Sam Weber, Lane Alexander, Heather Cornell, Acia Gray, Derick Grant, Jason Samuels Smith, and others. Karissa recently performed Tap Virtuoso Sam Webers’ choreography at the 19th Annual Chicago Human Rhythm Project in August of 2009.

Karissa looks forward to continued opportunities and expanding her dance horizon.

I must say that this has by far been the most phenomenal summer of my life. Thank you so much to the Dallas Dance Council of North Texas for enabling me to continue my dance studies and expand my horizon. The Buster Cooper Tap Scholarship allowed me to participate in the first-ever tap program at the School at Jacob's Pilllow in Becket, Massachusetts. For the duration of this two week intensive, I was blessed with the amazing opportunity of studying dance and music with 24 other dancers from across the world and learning choreography from five professional artists. People came everywhere - from Washington state to New York, and even Canada and Japan. Never have I ever been around such giving, friendly people in such an intimate environment and even better, we all had that same burning passion for what we were engaged in. As soon as I arrived at the Pillow for the first day's orientation, I could already hear people tap dancing in the studio. When I went to go peek in and see what was going on, they were having a tap jam even though no one knew each other! It was great to see that everyone was already bonding, despite the fact that we came from so many different places. That first night, we also had a faculty discussion and got two hours to ask the faculty members questions. Among them in the first week was Dianne "Lady Di" Walker (the program's director), Derick K. Grant, and Tasha Lawson. It was definitely an ice breaker. The second week's faculty consisted of Dianne, Ray Hesselink, Dr. Harold Cromer - an amazing Vaudeville star, and his assistant Sarah Reich. We also got to work with live musicians, including the musical director Paul Arslanian, and Charles Neville, one of the amazing Neville brothers!

The two weeks consisted of tap dancing from 9 am to around 5 pm. In the mornings, we would take extra classes at eight o'clock, before our tap class, such as modern, ballet, pilates, or arab-american fusion. It was amazing to be taking pilates at the place where it was created. People all around the campus were so impressed with the tap dancers because they had never had a tap program and we were so open and well-rounded in dance. They didn't expect us to be interested in the ballet classes or modern classes and so they were very grateful that we showed so much respect for other dance forms. Although it seems that all we were doing was dancing our feet off, this was not true. We also had maintenance duties we had to take care of, for example cleaning the studio floors and windows every night, and ushering the shows for the professional companies that were residing at the Pillow each week. The first week, we got to eat lunch with the beautiful principal dancers of Camille A Brown's Company and Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal. Their shows were unreal and the fact that we got to get to know them as people was even more surreal. The second week, we were sharing the Pillow with Shantala Shivalingappa and Monger, an Israeli troop. Both were phenomenal and it was refreshing to get a taste of new cultures. Other than the duties we were required to do every night, our evenings were filled with watching footage of historical dance performances in the archives, our own performances for the public, interviews, or even dancing in the studio until three in the morning at our own leisure! We were even featured in the Boston Globe! The studio was open 24 hours and we definitely took advantage of that. I've never seen so much dedication before. We would rehearse our dances on our own into the late hours of the night, not because we had to, but because we had the desire to. The age range of dancers was everything from 15 years old to around 48 but despite this huge difference, we all grew as a family. I've never shared such emotions or experienced such a unity among people that I hadn't known all of my life. I cannot say thank you enough for being granted the opportunity to experience something like this. What makes this whole thing even more memorable is that all of us at the Pillow still continue to keep in touch, wherever we are and for that, I am eternally blessed to have created these relationships. I could already tell that I had grown immensely as a dancer from those two weeks and as cheesy as it sounds, I had grown as a person as well. Those two weeks have been the most cherished memories of my dance career so far, and probably will be for a very long time. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much.