Alfred Desio

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Alfred Desio, Co-founder of Los Angeles Choreographers and Dancers, was Director of Zapped Taps™/Alfred Desio until his death in 2007.  He was a Choreographer, and Composer, and the inventor of electronic tap, Tap-Tronics™, a system that allows tap dancers to play electronic instruments using the sound of the taps as a source.  A veteran of the original Broadway productions of West Side Story, Fiddler On the Roof, Man of La Mancha, Zorba, Kean, She Loves Me, and Donny Brook, he had the distinction of being Katharine Hepburn's personal photographer for Life Magazine while a member of the cast of Coco. Early dance training and performance was with Jerome Robbins, Jack Cole, Peter Gennaro, Donald McKayle, and Michael Bennett; and he also was assistant to Joseph Pilates, Pilates Technique. His innovative use of Tap and Electronics was featured in the Tri-Star film Tap starring Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. Alfred was invited by the Smithsonian Institute to perform his Zapped Taps at the opening of their new Experimental Gallery.

After receiving a choreography fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1986 Alfred had his east coast debut of Zapped Taps™/Alfred Desio at Dance Theater Workshop (New York) to critical acclaim. The next year, he returned to the Big Apple for Lincoln Center Out of Doors, where an audience of 6,000 attended the show.

Alfred was the subject of major television and radio programs concerned with innovative work with tap and electronics, including The Today Show, 2 On the Town, NBC News/National, Morning Edition/ and Performance Today/NPR, and Tappin,’ a documentary of the making of the film Tap. He performed and was featured in a film produced by Rusty Frank and Arthur Dong about the history and future of tap as well as being featured on Canada’s High Tech Culture. Alfred worked as teacher/choreographer with Korean media star So Rhee Oak and was featured in a documentary on American Tap for the Korean Broadcasting System. As a member of the WESTAF touring roster, his performances included many western states. Selected for the International Programming Network, Desio also performed in Barcelona at the international festival Dies de Dansa. He also created one of the title roles in the German art movie Zwei im Frack (Two In Tails). The award-winning short was seen in numerous film festivals all over the world.

Alfred was 30 year faculty member of the Colburn School of Performing Arts. He was also on the faculty of other schools including the University of Southern California, and was a Choreographer in Residence at Loyola Marymount University. He was the recipient of a Faculty Research and Innovation Fund (FRIF) grant for a collaborative project with his wife, Louise Reichlin and the two collaborated on three concert works. Alfred introduced his Tap-Tronics as an enrichment lecturer on the Royal Viking Sea on a Hawaiian cruise. Always concerned with his community, Alfred was awarded a commendation from the Los Angeles City Council in January 1998. Councilman Ridley-Thomas opened the ceremony at City Hall by “this is a resolution adopted today to commend Alfred Desio on an outstanding career as a dancer, a director, a choreographer, and a composer.” Besides being an accomplished teacher, Alfred has created and directs a special performance project called Colburn Kids Tap/L.A. Under his umbrella, LA C&D, he received a Brody Arts Award from the CA Community Foundation to have tap legend Fayard Nicholas, of the Nicholas Brothers, coach the young dancers. Alfred and the “Kids” performances have included Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Dance Kaleidoscope at the Ford, the LA Children’s Museum, Dance Roots at LA Theatre Center, the Greek Theatre and their home theatre Zipper Hall.

Alfred Desio has worked often with jazz bands and symphony orchestras. In 2004 he performed with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra at the Anson Ford Amphitheatre, as well as directing Colburn Kids Tap/L.A. & Friends for the finale of the production, receiving a standing ovation. In 2003 he performed a new jazz arrangement to Bach with the Pasadena Pops Orchestra at Descanso Gardens for their program Kick Up Your Heels, and several years earlier co-choreographed (with Louise Reichlin) and performed a Gershwin Suite with the same orchestra. In 2000 he premiered a trio tap version to Morton Gould's Tap Dance Concerto with the San Diego Symphony at Copley Hall conducted by Jung Ho Pak, also receiving a standing ovation.

Unusual commissions include a collaboration with Pacific Symphony Orchestra in 1990 to premier Variations for Zapped Taps™ and Orchestra, which he performed with the orchestra at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on two occasions. Selected works include Audio Imp for the Jazz Dance World Congress in AZ, 1998, A Suite of Tap Dances, 1996 at Dance Kaleidoscope, Brandenburg Boogie premiered with LA C&D at Bovard Auditorium, LA, 1994, Birthday Dance, a Tap-Tronic duet for himself and Sam Weber, premiered at the LA County Museum in 1992 with LA C&D, and Zapped Taps Suite, 1991 at Bing Th./USC with LA C&D. In 1999 he directed and choreographed the original show Caution: Men At Work TAP for Theatrical Arts International, which toured nationally in 2000. Desio also taught and performed for the St. Louis Tap Festival that year. Additional choreography (with Louise Reichlin) includes industrials and corporate events for Schick Wilkinson, Alliance Funding, and Ford Motors for the Taiwan Taipei International Motor Show.

Since his passing, some of Alfred’s tributes include the Lester Horton special award for Excellence in Teaching, the Kennedy Advocate of the Art of Tap Dance Award at the 5th Annual 2007 Los Angeles Tap Festival for his contribution of Teaching, Performing, and Innovations in Technology, a SoundDance Award from Rosie Radiator, a plaque for this teaching at the Colburn School, and a tribute to him presented at “Honoring the Tap Masters” at El Camino College.

For information about his funeral celebration, please click here.


Photo Gallery - Alfred Desio                Photo Gallery - Zapped Taps™                                                        

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This page was last revised on March 17, 2017.