Co-Founder, Knock On Wood Tap Studio
A native Washingtonian, Yvonne Edwards is Washington's celebrated "Tap Lady." She has been dancing, teaching, and choreographing for over 50 years. Ms. Yvonne, the founder of Knock On Wood Tap Studio (home of Tappers With Attitude), has taught master classes at the International Conference of Black Dance in Atlanta, the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, and at the New York City Tap Festival, as well as throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Her choreography is included in the repertoire of Tappers With Attitude. A longtime participant in Washington Performing Arts Society's Artists in Schools Program, in 1993 she was the recipient of the "Contribution to Dance in the District" award presented by the DC Ensemble, DC Arts and Humanities, and DC Art Works. She has been honored by the International Association of Blacks in Dance, and was named "Tap Teacher of the Year" by the American Tap Dance Foundation. In September 2006, she received the Metro DC Dance Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Dance Education." In December 2006, she received "Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Award for Education" at the Executive's Ball of Montgomery County, MD. In September 2007, Ms. Edwards received the WPAS "Pola Nirenska Award for Lifetime Achievement" at the Metro DC Dance Awards.
James "Jazzy Jim" Hughes
James L. Hughes has been teaching at Knock On Wood for the past 4 years. He is recognized for his melodic tap rhythms and inspired work as a soloist, teacher and choreographer. Jazzy Jim (as he is known by his peers and colleagues) helped develop a "Tap for Boys" program at KOW, where he is also a popular teacher of adult classes.
In 1986, Jim began taking tap at Cindy King Dance Studio. In 1993, he also began studying at Knock On Wood, where he honed his skills under the expert guidance of Yvonne Edwards, Studio Director and master tap dancer. James has continued his studies through master classes with professional tap artists such as Dianne Walker, Barbara Duffy, Brenda Bufalino, Robert Reed, Lane Alexander, Maurice Hines, Buster Brown and Dr. Henry LeTang, among others.
James has taught at Christian Dance Academy for 5 years and has brought dancers from there and from Knock On Wood together for an exchange of dance training (ballet and tap). Jazzy Jim's advanced tap students from Christian Dance Academy have also been showcased at Knock On Wood's "Open Mic Night."
In 1997, Jazzy Jim performed as a solo artist in Showstopper American Dance Championships and placed first. The legendary Peg Leg Bates told him after watching him dance at a Washington DC tap festival, "I like your dancing. You got good feet!" James performs at local venues, cabarets, local festivities, tapping for the Lord in church and inspirational dance productions, open mic nights and at National Tap Dance Day festivities.
Matthew Olwell has been performing and teaching across North America and Europe since 1996. He danced for 9 years with the Maryland-based Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, with whom he performed in Riverdance. In 2006, he co-founded Good Foot Dance Company with his wife and dance partner Emily Oleson. Matthew has performed with Lunasa, Tim O’Brien, Corey Harris, Liz Carroll, and Bassekou Kouyate, and recently appeared in Eileen Ivers’ Beyond the Bog Road. He has recently returned from The School At Jacob’s Pillow, where as a student of the first-ever tap program, he studied with Dianne Walker, Harold Cromer, Derick Grant, Tasha Lawson, Ray Hesselink, and Sarah Reich. He is excited to be joining the Knock on Wood family.
Coordinator of Children's Programs
Leanne Regan grew up in Wilkes-Barre, PA and started dancing at the age of 3 at the David Blight School of Dance. She studied tap and a variety of other forms of dance, including taking ballet from Russian ballet masters. Leanne graduated magna cum laude with her BA in Dance from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania with minors in business administration and management. She is on staff at Dance Place as Production Manager and has taught at multiple DC public charters schools, Olney Ballet Center, Maryland Youth Ballet, Joy of Motion Dance Center and the Metropolitan Ballet Academy. Leanne is currently teaching tap and jazz at Knock on Wood and at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington's Dance Department.
Cindy Spishak began dancing at age 3 in Northern Virginia at Cuppett's Performing Arts Center. She spent 14 years dancing, performing, and competing tap, ballet, jazz, lyrical, modern, hip hop and Cecchetti. At age 14, she began teaching and coaching fellow students. After graduating from high school, Cindy attended the College of William and Mary where she performed with, taught, and managed the dance company Pointe Blank. During the summers, she trained and performed with various modern and jazz companies in Washington, DC and taught ballet, tap, and jazz in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a Business Degree in Operations and Information Technology with minors in Art and Art History, and continues to work as an IT Program Manager. Ms. Cindy joined Knock on Wood as a student in 2007 and gladly accepted a teaching position at the studio in January of 2008.
Lisa Swenton-Eppard is a second-generation dance educator; she started dancing in her mother's dance studio in southern Maryland just as soon as she could walk. Ms. Lisa began teaching at the age of 15, and hasn't stopped since. She has been involved in many kinds of dance, including jazz, ballet, and modern, as well as competitions and pageants, both as a participant and a choreographer. After working with Tappers With Attitude Youth Ensemble as an assistant director from 2002 until they went on hiatus, Lisa founded her own tap ensemble, Capitol Tap, which is now in residence at Knock On Wood. She has been awarded two grants from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County and has served on the selection committee of the Metro DC Dance Awards. Lisa will begin teaching tap at Bowie State University as an adjunct faculty member beginning in September 2012.
Baakari Wilder is a young man who has had an astounding career. Savion Glover's replacement in the Broadway production of "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk," Baakari is a native Washingtonian and got his beginning right here in the DC Metropolitan area.
At 12, Baakari opened for tap legends Harold Nicholas, Sandman Simms, and Brenda Bufalino at the Kennedy Center. At 15, he won the Steve Condos Award which granted him a scholarship to one of the first American tap festivals, in Boulder, Colorado. Baakari's dancing has delighted audiences in places such as the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian, Carnegie Hall, and Jazz @ Lincoln Center. He has taught and performed around the country and around the world and has acting credentials that include both film and television.
Baakari studied tap under Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, Brenda Bufalino, Yvonne Edwards, and Renee Kreithen. He was the original dance captain of Tappers With Attitude, and has two pieces of choreography with the company. He teaches in MD, DC, and VA.
Read more about Baakari on our TWA Alumni page.
Rita M. Wilson has been dancing for over 20 years. She began studying at the Davis Center for the Arts and then moved on to the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet. In her late teen years, she joined Tappers With Attitude, which afforded her the opportunity to dance at the Apollo Theater. Since then, Rita has earned her BS degree in Business Management; her MBA, concentrating in Nonprofit Management; and is currently working on her MA, concentrating in Managerial Accounting. She has used her educational background to develop a nonprofit organization that aids in offering dance scholarships around Washington, DC. Rita has also formed a small tap company that rehearses in her home studio.
Michael Wooden began tapping at the age of 7 years old. He was one of the first members of Tappers With Attitude's Junior Company and moved quickly to the Core Company. Michael assisted TWA instructors Yvonne Edwards and Renee Kreithen ornamenting the dance for the Kennedy Center Honors to Shirley Temple in 1998. Michael has appeared at the Kennedy Center in the Brothers of the Night production under the direction of Debbie Allen. He has also performed a solo at the 11th Annual Capital Awards gala with guitarist Pepe Gonzales at the Strathmore. Michael has been teaching since the age of 13.