Who We Are


Credit: Jonathan Goell
Credit: Jonathan Goell

Yvonne Edwards

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 60 years. Ms. Yvonne, the co-founder of Knock On Wood Tap Studio, has taught master classes at the International Conference of Black Dance in Atlanta, the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, the New York City Tap Festival, and throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Her choreography is included in the repertoire of Capitol Tap and before that she choreographed pieces for Tappers With Attitude (the original tap performing ensemble at Knock on Wood Tap Studio that group is now inactive).

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 the "Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Award for Education" at the Executives' 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.


Knock On Wood Tap Faculty


Gigi Buscaglio

 

Gigi Buscaglio, a native Washingtonian, has performed as a featured singer/dancer at such prominent venues as The Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap Farm Park, Blues Alley Night Club, The Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, and many other private events in the DC area. She has toured nationally, in repertoire, with The National Players acting company, appearing in Richard III, The Miser, and the musical The Boys from Syracuse. Internationally, Gigi was a featured performer in a USO show, performing a rock-and-roll review for U.S. troops in Germany and Italy.

 

Gigi has also taught music, dance, and theatre and directed and choreographed for over 25 years at some of the most prestigious Washington area studios and schools, including: Feet First Dance Studio, The Wheaton Studio of Dance, Peters Studio of Dance, DC Dance Collective, The Woods Academy, Imagination Stage, Walter Johnson High School, Churchill High School, Georgetown Visitation High School, and Holton-Arms Academy.

 

Currently, Gigi also teaches music and creative movement for infants to 5-year olds at The Goddard School in Urbana, Maryland. She also teaches a parent and child class at Knock On Wood Tap Studio and leads many young children-related special events. Her 25-year association with Knock On Wood and the love for and from Ms. Yvonne, Miss Mary Lou Peters, and the tap community are the most cherished gems of Miss Gigi’s life. Tap dancing is her most favorite thing to do in the world.


Andrea Cossettini

 

Andrea Cossettini is a tap dance teacher with over 30 years of tap experience. She has studied with a variety of dancers, including Jay Fagan, Dianne Walker, and Baakari Wilder. She is also a sean nos (old style) Irish dancer, and has performed for the Irish Ambassador to the United States Anne Anderson, as well as at the Comhaltas Ceoltoíri Éireann North American Convention, the EU Embassy Open House, the EU Embassy Euro Kids Festival, and on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage. She is teaching faculty and a performing member of Shannon Dunne Dance in Montgomery County, Maryland, and has studied with Mick Mulkerrin, Mairead Casey, and Aidan Vaughn at the Willie Clancy Festival in Co. Clare, Ireland, as well as with dancers such as Gerard and Patrick Devane, Brian Ó hAirt, Brian Cunningham, and Shannon Dunne. In 2014, she founded the Percussive Dance Preservation Project, a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, dedicated to the support, development, and preservation of percussive dance styles in the United States. By day, she is a Doctor of Audiology for a school system in Northern Virginia.

Sam Heimowitz

 

Sam began dancing at 4 years old, grew up at Knock on Wood Tap Studio, and is a member of Capitol Tap. Performances include Tappin’ Thru Life with Maurice Hines at Arena Stage in Washington, DC; DC College Access Talent Competition at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater (where he won $2000 for college for his performance); Rockin’ in Rhythm (NYC) debut of Charlestwins, Sam and his identical twin brother’s own choreography to The Charleston; Tap City Student Showcase in NYC; Jersey TapFest in Bloomfield, NJ; Beantown TapFest in Massachusetts; and numerous performances with Capitol Tap in the Metro DC area. He has appeared at nursing homes, homeless shelters, schools, street festivals and religious institutions and is teaching a tap preschool class at CentroNia in Takoma Park. Sam has been greatly influenced by Lisa Swenton-Eppard, Founder/Artistic Director of Capitol Tap, Baakari Wilder, Assistant Artistic Director of Capitol Tap, Yvonne Edwards, Co-Founder of Knock on Wood Tap Studio, Hillary-Marie Michael, Sarah Reich, Michelle Dorrance, and Chloe and Maud Arnold. He has taken piano lessons and has competed in gymnastics in addition to being an 11th grade honor student at School Without Walls in Washington, DC, and at the same time a freshman at George Washington University. Sam continues to choreograph pieces by himself and with his brother and is very excited to share his knowledge with KOW students!


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.


Agi Kovacs

(On sabbatical 2017-18)

 

Agi Kovacs was born and raised in Hungary where as a young child she was selected to study at the Hungarian National Ballet Institute in Budapest, where she was trained in classical ballet, Hungarian folk dance and historical dances. She moved to the USA 20 years ago and started her own family here in DC. A few years later she started her dance career again, performing and teaching Sean Nos (old style Irish) dance to all ages. She has been a principal dancer with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble for the past 7 years and continues to travel around the world performing, teaching and spreading the joy of different percussive dance styles. Agi has performed at venues throughout DC, Maryland, Virginia, and New York, as well as in Canada, Ireland, and England. She also has been teaching at schools in DC/MD/VA and she is looking forward to another great year here at Knock On Wood Tap Studio.


Carrie Smith

 

Carrie has been dancing since 1985. She first studied ballet at St. Mark’s Dance Studio at the age of 5. She explored other dance genres at Fran’s Studio of Dance in Oxon Hill, MD, where she studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, drama. Carrie was also a member of the P.M. Dance Company for 4 years under the direction of Fran Peters. She successfully competed locally and nationally for solo and group performances.

 

While attending Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, she was co-captain of the Pom Squad for 2 years and created choreography for the hip hop and the lyrical routines. Carrie enrolled in classes at Knock on Wood Tap Studio, where she became a member of Tappers With Attitude under the direction of Yvonne Edwards and Renee Kreithen. Carrie had the opportunity to take lessons from many tap masters such as Lane Alexander, Bakaari Wilder, Jeannie Hill, Dianne Walker, Brenda Bufalino, and Jimmy Slyde. While at Trinity College, she joined the adult dance company Step Aside, as well as Artistic Rhythms Alliance (ARA). Besides being a part of dance companies, Carrie also has been sharing her dance through teaching. She has taught before at KOW, Concepts of Motivation at Olney Studio of Dance, Body Rhythms Performing Arts, and Joe’s Movement Emporium.

 

Carrie is also an IT Specialist with the Department of the Treasury.


Lisa Swenton-Eppard

Director of Programming, Knock On Wood Founder/Artistic Director, Capitol Tap


Raised in her mother's dance studio, Lisa Swenton-Eppard has spent all of her life learning dance. In addition to founding and directing Capitol Tap, Lisa is currently Director of Programming at Knock On Wood Tap Studio and adjunct professor at Bowie State University. She was featured in Dance Teacher Magazine in May 2015, selected as the "Teacher in the Spotlight" for Dance Studio Life Magazine in March/April 2013, and a recipient of two Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County grants. With 30 years teaching experience, Lisa is always looking to further her own tap education through classes, festivals, and intensives. Raised in the competition circuit, she went on to become a judge at dance competitions, and served on the committee as well as choreographed for a local Miss America pageant. Lisa's most recent positions include DC TapFest faculty for 2013, 2014, and 2015, assistant director of Tappers With Attitude Youth Ensemble from 2002-2010, Chloe and Maud Productions' Summer Tap Boot Camp faculty in 2010, Black Rock Center for the Arts faculty from 2002-2009, Step Aside Tap Company member from 2001-2006, and a selection committee member for the Metro DC Dance Awards for many years. Lisa holds a B.S. in Psychology from Frostburg State University.


Candace Turitto

Candace’s dance life started – like most do – at a very young age, and has covered a wide range of disciplines, including tap, jazz, ballet, pointe, modern, hip-hop and pom. She has been dancing for over 25 years as part of performing troupes, dance teams, and competition teams, and has been a choreographer and instructor for over 10 years.

As a teenager, Candace attended the Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts, where she studied Musical Theater and served as the group’s dance captain. As a member of the group’s select troupe, she traveled to Japan for a performance tour, and participated in dozens of Broadway revues and shows, including Will Roger’s Follies and Chicago. At the collegiate level, Candace was a member of the James Madison University Dukettes, a very competitive and nationally ranked dance team. Over the years, she has studied with several notable choreographers, including Baakari Wilder (Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk, original cast) and Denise Wall (Denise Wall’s Dance Energy), and her own routines have received several awards at both regional and national competitions, for both choreography and high scores. Candace is also a current and founding member of the historic adult performance company District Tap, and is a sought-after instructor across the DC Metro area.

Candace received her Bachelor’s Degree from James Madison University, and has years of political campaigning experience, from campaign management to media consulting. She returned to academia in 2010 to receive a Masters Degree from the University of Maryland, where she is also currently pursuing her Ph.D. in American Politics and Statistics, and is projected to complete her graduate work in 2017.


Stephanie Vadala

 

Stephanie is a native of Syracuse, NY where she trained at Liverpool School of Dance. As a child she studied ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical and was an award winning member of their competition team. She was introduced to modern dance at SUNY Oswego, where she received her B.A. in Human Communications. After moving to the DC area in late 2007, she jumped into the dance scene and added hip hop to her dance styles. Over the years, Stephanie has been a member of multiple DC area dance companies including Tappenstance, Afta Shock DC, Next Reflex Dance Collective, ARA Tap, Glade Dance Collective, and xx, and has danced at many other special events and festivities around the area. She can also be seen dancing in the documentary, James Brown: The Man, The Music, The Message, which aired on NBC.


In addition to teaching at Knock on Wood, Stephanie currently teaches at Joy of Motion, The New School of Dance and Arts, Perfect Point Dance Studio and Adventure Theatre. Stephanie also has a love for singing and photography.


Joseph Webb

 

Joseph Monroe Webb is an international award-winning dancer, choreographer, actor, director, educator and poet who has showcased his talents in a number of performances throughout the years, including the Tony Award winning Broadway production, Bring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk. Following his Broadway success, Joseph ventured into acting in an appearance in the Martin Scorsese film, Bringing Out the Dead, and appeared in numerous print and television ads. He has also performed on talk shows, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Live with Regis and Kathy Lee. In early 2017, Joseph was nominated for Helen Hayes Best Supporting Actor and Best Ensemble for his performance in the Tony Award winning Broadway musical Jelly’s Last Jam at the Signature Theater.

 

Joseph is a Presidential Scholar and graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theater Arts. He was a full-time lecturer at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and while at Medgar Evers College, enrolled in the M.A. in Applied Theatre program at City University of New York/School of Professional Studies.

 

Joseph was a special guest artist at the 25th Anniversary of Gala Des Etoiles Dance Gala in Montreal, Canada, and he and his band have been featured at the Red Hook Festival in Brooklyn, NY. He has been a guest teacher and performer at the DC and LA Tap Festivals and a special guest artist at Clifford Brown Jazz Festival in Wilmington, DE. He executed a stellar performance at the Tap City Concert in NYC, which was reviewed by the New York Times. He was a featured dancer in the cast of the Thank You Gregory national tour, Tap Stars (Hamburg, Germany) and in the Cotton Club Parade with Wynton Marsalis. Joseph wrapped filming in the movie Black Nativity in 2013, starring Angela Basset and Forest Whitaker, as well as a short movie for Red Bull Academy Music NYC. Joseph was cast in a Morningstar Farms commercial and short film on sustainable eating and food lifestyles that aired in March 2016. Recent performances include renowned Carnegie Hall in NYC, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a featured guest of the DC Jazz Festival, headliner at the H Street Festival, and more. He is the founder and director of American Embassy of Dance, a dance school specializing in percussive dance in Washington, DC.


Photo: Enoch Chan
Photo: Enoch Chan

Baakari Wilder

Assistant Artistic Director, Capitol Tap

 

Baakari Wilder is internationally known for starring in the Broadway musical Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk. He received a Bessie Award for his performance, and later assumed the lead role for a year. At the age of 12, he opened the show at the Kennedy Center for a star-studded tap review that included the legendary Brenda Bufalino, Sandman Simms, Harold Nicholas, and Savion Glover. He was the first recipient of the Steve Condos Award, created by Lorraine Condos in honor of her late husband. At 16, Baakari became a member of Savion Glover’s tap group “Real Tap Skills,” consisting of three other tap dancers from the metropolitan area. Baakari’s dancing has delighted audiences around the world in places such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, France, Africa, Brazil, Germany, and Japan. He appeared in Spike Lee's “Bamboozled,” the Discovery Channel’s “Time Warp,” and as a guest performer on FOX channel’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” Baakari has a Bachelors of Arts degree in theater from the University of Maryland at College Park. He is the Assistant Artistic Director of the Washington D.C. based company Capitol Tap. Baakari was recently granted the 2014 Pola Nirenska Award for Achievement in Dance.


Rita Wilson

 

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

 

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.