Local festival taps Israeli dancers for upcoming classes, performance

Avi Miller and Ofer Ben

By Mary Jane Rogers, St. Louis Jewish Light

Avi Miller and Ofer Ben, world-renowned Israeli tap dancers who incorporate Middle Eastern and Israeli movement into their routines, will be performing and teaching classes during the weeklong St. Louis Tap Festival, which runs July 22-27, and culminates with the tap dancing extravaganza, “All That Tap XXII,” at Edison Theatre.

Robert Reed created the annual local tap festival 22 years ago to educate and celebrate the art of tap dance.  “I started it because there was nothing here,” he explained.  “I wanted to bring a festival here for the people of St. Louis and the Midwest.” So far it has been a huge success.  “I would definitely feel that it has educated the people of St. Louis and the Midwest [about tap dancing],” he continued.  “People come in from all over the world for the workshops and classes and to see the performances.  It’s amazing.” 

His performers and participants tend to agree.  “It is always a great show and everyone always comes back each year for more,” said Ben. 

In the upcoming festival, Miller and Ben are excited to be teaching workshops Monday through Friday at the Sheraton Plaza in downtown Clayton, as well as participate in “All That Tap XXII” on Saturday at Edison Theatre.  Festival classes, which run each day of the festival from 8:30 a.m. to 7:15 p.m., range in price from  $30, with packages ranging from $185 for eight classes to $495 for all 25 classes. Most nights feature special events, including a Tap Jam on Wednesday, July 24 and Participant’s Showcase on Friday, July 26.

Miller and Ben said their performance on Saturday, “is a prepared piece, but some things are always left to be spontaneous.”  They encourage people to come and celebrate this art form, and see how much fun it can be with their own eyes. 


The St. Louis Tap Festival has many inspiring instructors and performers, but Miller and Ben are particularly noteworthy.  Miller began tap dancing at the age of 12 in Israel.  “I learned under Master Ya’acov Kalusky, who lived very close to me at the time,” Miller said.  With the late Master Kalusky as his teacher, he quickly improved and was preforming professionally by age 13. 

Ben, who is also an Israeli native, partnered up with Miller in the 1990s, and from there the two became extremely successful tap dancers.  Miller and Ben became interested in jazz tap after visiting the United States multiple times, but still incorporate many of their native region’s movements into their dancing.  Miller alluded to the importance of their Israeli culture to their dancing by saying, “When you are born you are exposed to so many different things. When we dance we incorporate those moments from our early life.”

After meeting, the two preformed together in a dance troupe called Tap Tel-Aviv, and they also performed as Miller & Ben—The Israeli Hoofers. “It has taken us all over the world,” Ben said of their profession.  Miller listed many places where they had traveled, such as Thailand, Australia, China and many other countries.  “We enjoy the country before we even start teaching,” Miller said.  “We get to speak to the people and see how they live.”

In 2000 the duo moved to New York, which Miller calls “the center of the world.”  They relocated their Jazz Tap Center Inc. office there and began a non-profit organization called Tradition in Tap, which includes workshops and performances that demonstrate specific tap masters’ techniques.  They also teach at the Broadway Dance Center, and perform in workshops and festivals all over the world.

The two own Miller & Ben Tap Shoes, which Miller started in the late 1980s.  They have stores all over the world and their tap shoes are considered one of the best on the market.  According to Miller, their shoes are so esteemed because “they inspect absolutely everything” and set extremely high standards for what they sell.

“I don’t think I have ever regretted my profession, I am very lucky that way,” said Ben of his love for tap dancing.  “It is always new and exciting.”