Christopher Rice: Classic Tap Dancer Earns Pop Fame

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.

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