Update: This story was originally published on January 16, 2016. Since the launch of this story, tap dancing superstars Chloe and Maud Arnold have released a tribute to Beyonce’s “Formation” with a tap dance routine by their all-female troupe, Syncopated Ladies which Queen Bey herself gave a loud, proud nod of approval to by sharing with her millions of fans. The video has since gone viral. Check it out yourself here to see why and read more about the inspiring ladies below.
It’s 5 a.m. on an unseasonably gloomy, purple-sky-filled thunderstorm morning in Miami Beach. It’s the type of soggy darkness that confuses the senses. We’re blindsided by the two glowing smiles that answer the door at the landmark Art Deco hotel we’re staying in the morning of our shoot. With a trunk filled with Missoni’s vibrant bikinis, space-dyed dresses, and bold zigzag-happy cover-ups, we were relieved to find Chloe and Maud Arnold springing with energy, despite the uncooperative weather for our planned beachside photo shoot.
Fresh off a thrilling week of performances during Art Basel, the international tap stars, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, and performance body doubles for a major popstar (we promised not to name), seem to gain stamina the more they work, driven by their love of the art and strong work ethic instilled in them by their mother and dance industry mentor, the illustrious, Debbie Allen. The two are sisters and best friends who share everything, “except for men and shoes,” they state with a laugh. “We never go anywhere without our tap shoes and a bluetooth speaker. When we were kids we did everything together, and we are so thankful that as adults we get to celebrate our bond on and off dance floors all over the world.”
Within minutes, Chloe and Maud feel like our old friends. Raincoats are cast aside, bikinis are met with enthusiastic exclamations of dibs, and the tap shoes and bluetooth speaker come in handy as we seek patches of sunshine along Ocean Drive. Get to know the talented duo for yourselves in our conversation below. Once you fall in love with them, watch Tap World, the exuberant documentary they produced, an homage to the art form they live, breath, and graciously share.
The Window: How did you get into tap?
Chloe Arnold: My mom put me in dancing school when I was a kid because she used to dance. I had an affinity for tap, so my mom sought out more opportunities. At the age of 10 I took classes from tap masters Gregory Hines and the Nicholas Brothers and that really solidified my dreams of becoming a tap dancer.
Maud Arnold: Growing up with limited financial resources, we had to do everything together, so I went along to dance with Chloe. I ended up falling in love with it too!
Tell us more about your mother—it sounds like she was a major force in your success.
CA: Our mom taught us to dream without limit and that we were capable of achieving anything we imagined as long as we worked for it. She worked innumerable jobs for our survival, while simultaneously making sure that we found access to opportunities to further our education in school, sports, and the arts. We grew up in close quarters and it fostered a very tight family unit that still exists today.
Who are your mentors in the field of dance?
MA: Debbie Allen has been the ultimate mentor. Chloe auditioned for Ms. Allen as a teen and was cast in a role that changed the trajectory of our lives. The opportunity introduced us to the world of the arts outside of our home in Washington, D.C. Ms. Allen taught us how to become Renaissance women, as she herself does everything at the highest level. She opened her home in LA to us, provided Chloe a job and me a scholarship to bring our careers to LA and take them to the next level. Ms. Allen really took the time to teach us firsthand how to become successful artists, businesswomen, and the importance of always giving back. She continues to be a constant source of guidance and inspiration.
“Renaissance women,” we like that! As acknowledged businesswomen, any sage advice for others reaching for success?
MA: Love yourself first. Don’t compromise your dreams or vision for anyone! With bravery, determination, and heart, believe that you can have it all.
And what about encouraging words for aspiring dancers or others in the creative field?
CA: Imagine it, write it down, say it out loud, work passionately and never give up!
MA: Challenge your fears and don’t take “no” for an answer.
Give us an example of how goals can come to fruition with the mindset of “Imagine it, write it down, say it out loud…”
CA: It’s about making your own work. Most people think that tap dance is a dying art form. There were little to no opportunities for women in tap, so we had to create them for ourselves. Our vision is to bring tap dance back to the people on live stages, TV and film. We utilized our film degrees [both women are graduates of Columbia University School of The Arts for Film], and started making music videos which brought attention to the work we are doing. We produced a documentary to shed light on the global presence of tap dancing. We produced a tour for the first female tap dancing band Syncopated Ladies, [winner of So You Think You Can Dance] and we educate young people by creating arts programming. If we envision it, we build it.
What do you love most about what you do?
MA: I love that I get to work with kids worldwide! They are so honest, hilarious, and a constant stream of inspiration. Working with Chloe is the other best part of this life!
CA: The joy that tap dancing brings to people of all backgrounds, it is incredibly fulfilling. Tap dance is a universal language.
Where is the most fun place your work has taken you?
CA: We have been to over 30 countries, but Rio de Janeiro takes the crown! It is the perfect blend of culture and nature, there, dance is a way of life. It is truly the “Cidade Maravilhoso.”
MA: Hmm, I’m going to have to go with THIS. Barneys New York! Featuring tap dancers? Photographing us in Missoni—amazing!”
We’re glad Barneys made it up there! The Missoni collection really suits your fearless personas if we do say so ourselves.
Which looks are you into most so far?
MA: The slit in the Missoni maxi skirt is like a secret. As soon as a I took a big step it was all leg. It felt almost cinematic—like I’m a classic movie starlet.
CA: The vibrant colors and super cute fit of the bikini set with knit shorts make for the perfect outfit to go to my favorite place—the beach—where I find peace of mind, inspiration, and a great tan.
What’s your key to feeling confident on the beach?
CA: Confidence starts on the inside. How we feel on the inside is reflected in our outer beauty. I was raised to know that my greatest assets are the intangibles: my mind, my good will, my love, and so I treat my body with great respect—therefore I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m proud of who I am, flaws and all.
Lastly, what do you hope your next big “wow” moment will be?
CA: One of our goals this year is get our Syncopated Ladies show in Las Vegas, a world tour, and TV show.
MA: Every day is a “wow” moment, we get to live what we love!