Interconnectivity. For Sandra Kluge, ArtKompetes’ International Short Film Competition winner and tap dance maestro, this is the defining word of so much of her work. Not content with a single outlet for her creativity, Sandra expresses herself in any form that can be used to break down barriers, cross what she calls ‘unnecessary boundaries’ that people tend to create. Whatever it is she utilises, whether it be tap shoes, a paintbrush or a pen, is a tool toward proving that ‘literally everything is connected, born from the same source.’
Sandra’s short film, ‘Extend: Beyond, Regarding Art’ is a six-minute testament to this philosophy. Beginning with a shot of a studio in black-and-white, we hear the Avishai Cohen song, ‘It’s Been So Long’ kick in. Then, shot after shot, we are introduced to the world that Sandra sees; tap, traffic, graffiti, pedestrians, streets, the modest biro and jot pad as she builds a picture of shifting patterns. ‘Even little daily interactions’, Sandra says, ‘will show in my artistic output […] I’m trying to learn from every situation I encounter, so ideally my work and philosophy as an artist are constantly evolving and redefining’. It seems natural, then, that someone looking to break through barriers and to keep redefining, would eventually come to creating film. For Sandra, film is a ‘way to share my tap dancing with the world.’
But form is not king. The varieties of mediums Sandra is proficient in are not separate, they all serve precisely the same purpose of relaying experience and reaching out to the globe. ‘The different art forms are simply tools to express that […] Ideally, I think it shouldn’t really matter which medium we choose to express ourselves.’ Like multiple translations of a single book, Sandra’s art is all different variegations of the same goal. The tap shoe is a tool just as the camera lens or the pen.
Tap, however, is where the spark was first struck. Beginning her lessons with her mother – also a tap dancer and musician – at age ten, Sandra started learning professionally two years later, in a workshop with German tap master, Sebastian Weber. ‘That was a pivotal experience,’ Sandra explains, ‘because it made me realize that there are other people who share the same passion, and that it’s a way to communicate with others.’ Now twenty-one years old, Sandra is a professional in her own right, and part of the latest generation of tap dancers. For the modern dancer, however, part of the work is ‘to tell people about all the masters of the art form.’ When Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly are the most many know of it, it is easy to paint tap as outdated medium. She takes this on in her stride, striving to teach people her age and younger that there is much more to it than ‘50s musicals. This effort, to inform us of the enduring appeal of tap, is undoubtedly part of why ‘Extend: Beyond’ was made. And she knows the history of the first ‘tool’ she mastered.
‘Chuck Green, Jimmy Slyde, the Nicholas Brothers, Buster Brown, Honi Coles […] they were the masters of the swing and bebop era. Then in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the population’s music taste changed, so many tap dancers lost their jobs and stopped dancing. Some say tap was dead for a while. Then, in the ‘80s, people like Gregory Hines and all these incredible women like Brenda Bufalino, Lynn Dally, and Dianne Walker came along and revived tap […] Then there is Savion Glover, who, in the ‘90s, put tap into a hip-hop context, reaching out to young people. Tap dance has been reinvented quite a lot, compared to its young history of just a little over one-hundred years.’
To visit Sandra’s website is to see both further evidence of her attention to detail, and somebody who recognises the benefits of a professional online presence. Clean, simple and connected to everything affiliated with her career, including tap dance recordings, short films, performance credits and her blog, Eclectic Grounds, sandrakluge.com is proof that the antiquated image of tap is itself outdated. As with music and film, dance has progressed with the times, and in her film, the same bridge between tap and modernity is built literally from the ground up until we reach the perceived antithesis of tap: graffiti art. The short leaves us with the impression that the two things have never been separate.
In terms of social media, where she keeps a Facebook profile and an Instagram account (@sandra.kluge), Sandra is aware of its usefulness for an artist, but also of its pitfalls: ‘I think it is a great tool for artists to get an audience for their works and directly address and share with people. However, I think it’s important to know how you can make it work for you. […] we all know that social media is being misused very often, when the difference between real and virtual reality is being confused […] There is no filter, which is a curse and a blessing at the same time.’
‘we have to look beyond our own horizon.’ A sentence in the final message of Sandra’s film that aptly summarises her ideals. But also, considering the state of current affairs, a simple statement that a lot more people could do with reading.
(Photo Credit: Moreen Jiang)