Christopher Rice: Classic Tap Dancer Earns Pop Fame

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the January 2014 Issue

Chris LeapingEven Christopher Rice was shocked when his YouTube tap dance video went viral. He never expected his Fred Astaire-type choreography to reach a million views in its first week, or receive rave reviews from In Touch Magazine or ABC’s Diane Sawyer.

“Sure, I would watch something like that because I like classic dance, but I’ve never seen a viral tap video before,” Rice said.

In the cover video, Rice performs a traditional tap routine to the song “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone.” The video is known as “Cups” because when Anna Kendrick performed it in the a cappella movie Pitch Perfect, she tapped a cup up and down to create the song’s beat. Rice liked her popular version and thought that the sound of tap shoes nicely mimicked the same rhythm.

“Cups” was Rice’s first choreographed video. He’s shocked and honored that it did so well, or, as he put it, “My first one worked out okay, so I’ll be doing more in the future.” Don’t let his unpretentious nature fool you—this young Edmond native has an impressive dance résumé. Since making his musical dance début in New York less than two years ago, he’s had a solid-booked schedule since.

Chris with TaxiRice graduated with a musical theater degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2011. His very first New York audition landed him a role on the national tour of West Side Story, which traveled the United States, Canada and Japan. This was immediately followed by a national tour of White Christmas. He described his touring life as a grown-up version 

of summer camp—seeing the same people every day in close quarters, then moving on to the next city. Currently, Rice has a stationary role on Broadway in The Book of Mormon.

Rice expressed amazement at how many people it takes to pull off a show and loves seeing the smiling faces each night. Although he enjoys classic tap dance the most, he is also fond of hip-hop and other mixed styles. “My skill set isn’t needed in every show, but I’ve been blessed to not have a lot of time in-between jobs,” Rice said. “I’m not sure what is next, but I’m auditioning as projects come about.”

YouTube

Rice got his solid start growing up in Edmond, taking dance classes at Dance Unlimited, On Broadway (which is no longer in business) and Lyric Academy in Oklahoma City. While he was home-schooled, he gained acting experience participating in children’s theaters and after-school music programs held at Metro Church, which eventually merged with LifeChurch.tv.

“I grew up in north Edmond, and was thankful to be surrounded by the arts wherever we turned. There is so much culture in Edmond. It inspired me to want to create new art,” Rice said.

His dream is to originate a role in a new show or to create a new production of a classic show like Singin’ in the Rain. “I’m influenced most by dancers Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. They were pros—unmatchable but inspiring. I think they captured the fluidity and masculinity of dancing.”

While he doesn’t know what his next role might be, he has been working to choreograph two more dance videos, expected to be out next spring or summer. His goal is to mix and match popular music with dance styles that are unexpected for the song. “It’s funny, I’ll be at the gym and some big jock will say, ‘I liked your tap video.’” Rice laughed. “More people saw it than I ever expected. It was a cool and unexpected experience.” Even online reviewers at the Huffington Post expressed surprise that such “old fashioned” tap dancing was cool again. Rice admitted that he’s faced a number of skeptics, but he’s worked hard, believed in himself, and made his dreams a reality. “I was kind of impressed by America and impressed by the world that they would find something so classic as fresh and exciting.”

Chris Jumping

Now that Rice has made it in the big leagues, he doesn’t get a chance to travel home often, although his family still lives in Edmond and the surrounding areas. He credits his Oklahoma upraising for keeping him grounded.

“New York isn’t known for its family environment,” Rice said, “but I think growing up in Oklahoma instilled a kindness in my heart. It helps me be an understanding person and gets me through the ups and downs. Having a good attitude is not a requirement in this business, but it makes it so much better for those around you.”

Search for Chris Rice’s “Cups” video on YouTube or visit ChristopherRiceOnline.com.

2 Comments

Kara Says:
January 3rd, 2014 at 8:38 am
I am so proud of you! To think this all started with things like God's Wars, Little Women, Gods Spell, and High School Musical. You have always had big dreams and have stuck it through and seen them fulfilled. Not many people get to enjoy that. I wish you luck in all your future endeavors.

Smea Says:
March 18th, 2016 at 8:06 am
So proud of you chris!!! I can't wait to see you do great things in your future. xx
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