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


Jessyka Bagdon

 

Jessyka Bagdon (she/her) began studying dance and theatre in southern New Hampshire. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Dean College. Jessyka has had the pleasure of studying a wide variety of dance styles, including Tap, Jazz, Ballet (Vaganova, Cechetti), Modern (Release, Limon, Graham, Horton), Contemporary, Pointe, and Musical Theatre Dance. She has also had training in Hip Hop and Laban Movement Analysis. Jessyka has over ten years of professional experience teaching all of these styles, spanning all levels and ages, from toddler through adult. Jessyka has completed Teacher Training School of Dance Masters of America - level two, and Revolutionary Principles of Movement Teacher Training - level one. She has served as choreographer for the New Hampshire Professional Theatre Association Auditions and proudly performed with the American Tap Dance Foundation at the City Center in NYC. She spent time training in Manhattan, while bringing Ballet to underserved public school children as a Teaching Artist for the American Repertory Ballet; and working as an instructor, choreographer, and production assistant at various dance and performance organizations in Northern New Jersey. Jessyka spent two years as a teaching artist at Joy of Motion Dance Center where she taught a wide variety of ages and styles including working with auditioned performance groups of adults and youth musical theatre, and directing two jazz performance ensembles. She was a founding member of the DC/Maryland/Virginia Coalition of Dance Educators (DMVCODE) working with fellow teaching artists to support one another and advocate with employers to uphold standards of treatment and ethics in the field.

 

Jessyka is currently on faculty as a teaching artist with multiple Washington DC area arts organizations including Knock On Wood Tap Studio, Perfect Pointe Dance Studio, and Maryland School of Dance. Jessyka is the founder and director of Emanate Jazz Ensemble, in addition to an active performing member of District Tap and SOLEdarity dance ensembles, and regularly participates in performance and choreographic opportunities in the DMV area. She is gratified to be continuously and graciously enveloped (along with Cadence - her four legged sidekick) by the local dance community.


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.


Victoria Dillon

 

Victoria Dillon has been dancing since the age of 3, which is probably the first time she saw the Rockettes in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from her home in Buffalo, NY. Trained in tap, jazz, ballet and contemporary, she performed across Western New York before attending Syracuse University. There, she joined many dance companies and became an early member of Orange Pulse, a company just as committed to dance as to philanthropy.

Her career brought her to Washington where she served as a spokesman for leaders on Capitol Hill and in the Obama Administration. Despite her day job, dance was in her blood.

In 2015, she dusted off her tap shoes and joined the Artistic Rhythms Alliance. She has performed at the NCAA Kickoff Classic halftime show at the Meadowlands, is a regular performer at A Holiday SpecTAPular, a holiday tap show bringing together more than 100 local dancers, and has appeared in countless performances around the DC-Maryland-Virginia area, including with Savion Glover.

Victoria has shared her love of dance teaching for 4 years at Sitar Arts Center, a non-profit arts center dedicated to bringing the arts to students of all backgrounds and reaching 800 students each year, 80% of whom come from low-income households. She believes strongly in the power of the arts as a way to bring people together and to teach respect, control, joy – and if you’re a tapper, how to listen!


Becky Hill

 

Becky Hill is an accomplished and sought after percussive dancer, Appalachian square dance caller, and choreographer. Becky has worked with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, Rhythm in Shoes, Good Foot Dance Company and studied with an array of percussive dance luminaries.

In 2013, she was involved in Wheatland Music Organization’s Carry It On... Project under the directorship of Sharon Leahy, where she was commissioned to choreograph two dance pieces in honor of the festival’s 40th anniversary. In 2014, she was awarded a West Virginia Division of Culture and History Professional Development Grant to further her study of percussive dance and conducted her 200 Hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training at Rishikesh Yog Peeth in India. She served as Artist in Residence at Davis & Elkins College from September 2013 - December 2015, where she coordinated The Mountain Dance Trail of Augusta Heritage Center and co-directed the Appalachian Ensemble. Together with noted folklorist Gerry Milnes, she produced a documentary film on West Virginia dance traditions, "Reel ‘Em Boys, Reel ‘Em," and currently serves part-time as the events coordinator for Augusta Heritage Center. Becky organized Dare to be Square West Virginia in 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2017 and Helvetia Hoot in 2019.

In January 2016, Becky was awarded an additional West Virginia Division of Culture and History Professional Development Grant to study with Sandy Silva in Montreal, Quebec, and Yiota Peklari in Athens, Greece, in order to deepen her understanding of performing, creating and improvising within percussive dance. Becky served as the Interim Movement Teacher at Linden Waldorf School in Nashville, Tennessee 2017-2018 school year. She performs regularly with the T-Mart Rounders alongside Jesse Milnes and Kevin Chesser. In 2017, she directed and danced in her first full-length music and dance work inspired by Appalachian traditions, Shift and in fall 2018 she was selected as a fellow for OneBeat, a U.S. State Department Cultural Diplomacy Program.

Becky has performed at Jacob's Pillow, Newport Folk Festival, Mountain Stage Radio Show, Wheatland Music Festival, Big Ears, Nelsonville Music Festival and many others. As an avid organizer and teacher, Becky's work is deeply rooted in the connections between music and community.


Gerson Lanza

 

Originally from La Ceiba, Honduras, Gerson first encountered the art form of tap dance after moving to New York City in 2001. He immediately fell in love with tap after his first exposure, beginning his tap dance training under Omar Edwards at his studio, Harlem Tap, located in the heart of New York’s Harlem neighborhood.

 

In 2018, Gerson performed on a 6-month Norwegian Cruise Lines tour, where he performed Broadway’s Cotton Club Musical, “After Midnight.” He played numerous roles, including ensemble, Tap Brother and Tap Soloist, further developing his skills in singing, acting and other dance disciplines.

 

Recently, Gerson had a month-long residency at Lincoln Center, and a 2-week bubble residency at Jacob's Pillow, where he performed with Leo Sandoval’s company, Music from the Sole. Gerson has also served as a consultant and presenter for the 92nd Street Y's newest curriculum, “Tracing Footsteps,” currently being taught by performing arts educators in New York City.

 

Gerson is beginning his next journey at the University of Maryland this fall, where he seeks to obtain a Master of Fine Arts in Dance and Performance Studies.


Katharine Manor

 

Raised in the Rockville, MD/DC Metro area, Katharine has been studying tap dance since the age of 4 under the watchful eye of DC’s Tap Lady, Miss Yvonne Edwards. With an emphasis on musicality, cleanliness/clarity of sound, and improvisation over ‘”flash” and acrobatics, Katharine studied for 18 years with some of the most accomplished and knowledgeable tap dancers in the country. This list includes Baakari Wilder, Lisa Swenton-Eppard (Capitol Tap), Dianne Walker, Jason Samuel Smith, Derrick Grant, Sarah Reich, Chloe and Maud Arnold (The Syncopated Ladies), Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Michelle Dorrance, Joseph Webb, the late Harold Cromer and others.

 

Katharine was a member of Knock On Wood Tap Studio’s Tappers With Attitude (TWA) and is currently a member of Capitol Tap. She has participated in many tap festivals and cutting contests over the last decade including the annual DC Tap Festival, Syncopated Ladies Boot Camp and the New Jersey Tap Festival, where she won 1st place in 2014 and received a scholarship to the Los Angeles Tap Festival.

 

As an African-American dancer and scholar, Katharine’s work often focuses on matters of social justice, equality and historical accuracy, and shows her love for tradition.

 

Katharine performed in the 2016 American Dance Festival College Association SE Conference, the 2016 Black Theatre Network Conference and now tours with Davis & Elkins alumna, singer-songwriter Kaia Kater, who was featured in The Rolling Stones’ “top ten upcoming artists” 2016 review. She also presented at the APAP conference in New York City.

 

Katharine Manor has BA in American Vernacular Dance from Davis & Elkins College, where she studied with professors Laurie Goux, Becky Hill, and Emily Oleson.


Lisa Swenton-Eppard

Director of Programming, Knock On Wood; Founder/Artistic Director, Capitol Tap & District 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.


Ana Tomioshi

 

Ana is a Brazilian performing artist, choreographer and educator, currently living in Washington, DC. With an extensive multi-style background in tap dance, Irish dance, jazz and Brazilian rhythms, she became one of the most sought out tap dance soloists and instructors in Brazil.

 

Ana moved to Washington, DC, in 2018, where she dances with SOLE Defined, directed by Ryan and Quynn Johnson, and teaches at the Metropolitan School of the Arts. She is also a member of NYC-based company Music From the Sole, directed by Leonardo Sandoval and Gregory Richardson, performing at venues including the Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, The Yard, and Battery Dance Festival.

 

Born in Sorocaba, Brazil, Ana began dancing at age 10 and studied dance with mentors Sheila and Helga Santos. As a teenager, she won scholarships from Emmy award winner Jason Samuels Smith and Emmy nominee Chloe Arnold to continue her studies at the LA Tap Festival (Los Angeles/USA) and DC Tap Festival (Washington, DC/USA). In 2014, Ana was also one of 25 tap dancers chosen from around the world to participate in the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Tap Program, directed by MacArthur Fellow Michelle Dorrance.


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 Vadala is a native of Syracuse, NY where she trained in ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical starting at the age of 3. She also participated in community theatre in high school and college. 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 2007, she jumped into the dance scene, adding hip hop to the styles of dance she trains and performs in.

 

Over the years, Stephanie has been a member of multiple DC area dance companies of varying styles including Tappenstance, Afta Shock DC, Next Reflex Dance Collective, ARA Tap, and as a guest dancer with Glade Dance Collective. Other performance credits include: dancing for the Utz National Chip Day Celebration, dancing on the National Mall for Earth Day and the 100th Anniversary of the Cherry Blossom Festival, multiple DC Tap Fest All-Star Concerts, and National Tap Dance Day. Her most favorite performances were on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in a tap dance tribute to Fred Astaire, and dancing in the documentary titled, “James Brown: The Man, The Music, The Message” which aired on NBC. Stephanie is currently a member of District Tap.

 

Stephanie has taught multiple dance styles all over the DC area, but tap dance is where her heart is. In addition to Knock on Wood, she currently teaches at Perfect Pointe Dance Studio and CityDance. She currently directs Take 2, a youth tap company based in the DC area which she founded in 2020. When she is not dancing or teaching, you’ll see her behind the lens of a camera. She is honored to have attended Jacob’s Pillow in August 2019 for the Art of Photographing Dance intensive to further her skills as a photographer. Her hope is to keep growing as a student and educator of dance and one day spread the love of dance throughout the U.S.


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, DC 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.