Whether in a leotard and heels or a flowing Givenchy gown, Beyoncé has always been in the business of making statements. Through her anthemic hit records, if you listen closely, you’ll know exactly with whom Queen Bey aligns herself.
For example, the surprise release of her latest single, "Formation," was met with euphoric celebration. The beat is an ode to New Orleans bounce; and the video is an unapologetic curation of Black pride, Southern sass and side-eye to the injustices of today. All of which resulted in a relentless anthem of self-love that helped to refuel important grassroots movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackGirlMagic.
Inspired by the hit track's narrative, Syncopated Ladies, an all-female tap dancing troupe, fused their talents with Bey’s message of indomitable womanhood to create a video that was nothing short of amazing. Tackling the infectious beat with intricate foot work and impeccable timing, the dance group offered a refreshing take on the song through an art form we don’t see much of today.
“I heard the music and I immediately thought of her movements and what I saw her doing and how it is our movement," Chloe Arnold, founder of Syncopated Ladies, tells BET.com. "We are a part of her movement. It’s all one, and I thought we have to do an ode to that. We are a tap company and our whole message is about empowerment, and so this is such a wonderful song and opportunity to celebrate that.
Gaining upward of 5.5 million views on Facebook, it took no time for Beyoncé to pick up on the video's buzz, reposting it on her official website.
Arnold still can't believe the video's success. “As an artist, to be recognized by another artist that you admire — and in this case, the biggest artist in the world — to have her say, ‘What you ladies did, I approve. I love it,’ is so uplifting. It’s so inspiring. You just feel like, Wow, I’m being heard. All this work that I’m putting in is being heard. How amazing of her to give other women a chance to be heard and shine. So, it’s not just making music that says, ‘Oh yeah, let’s get in formation.’ She’s really doing it. She’s really following through on her message and giving other women a platform."
On the track, which features the late New Orleans personality Messy Mya and the reigning Queen of bounce, Big Freedia, Bey not only permits women to come into their own, but commands that they harness something greater.
“Getting in formation is form," Arnold added. “Having information about what’s going on in the world. Specifically, right now, we’re in a time where the Internet provides so much more awareness to the injustices that are happening. Obviously, one of the major ones right now is police brutality. But then, there’s just so many that are about inequity, and I think that the information is knowing that these inequities exist. I think getting in formation is when we align ourselves and unite to stand as one against inequities.”
Since founding Syncopated Ladies in 2003 in Los Angeles, the well-choreographed Chloe and her sister, Maud, transformed the group from a late-night freestyle jam session to a fully equipped dance production company.
“This one particular night, it was only ladies and I was thinking, Wow, this is powerful. Because in the field of freestyle, it is primarily a male-dominated lane. More men were doing freestyle, but these women were empowered in freestyle and had incredible ability to learn choreography and on top of that, studied all these styles of dance, so they, to me, were like so amazing. I thought, We gotta do something, and so I said, 'Hey ladies, do you wanna be in my company?' And we started with just maybe one show a year.”
Rooted in providing a voice for women in this marginalized group, Chloe and Maud have worked to tell a story that highlights the woman who worked alongside the men we often hear about. Savion Glover, Gregory Hines and The Nicholas Brothers are just a few of the more common names we can recall from word of tap. However, this curvaceous quartet is allowing room for Black female tap dancers to sit comfortably in the discussion, Arnold says.
“You ask the average person, ‘Name a female tap dancer,’ and most likely, they’re not gonna name anyone, and especially [not] Black women. So, it’s twofold. Women not really being acknowledged in this field and Black women really have not been acknowledged in this field. For us, in the field of tap, since we were little, we have known of this inequity, and really working our whole lives to train our skill level and our artistic drive and passion to create alternatives and to say, ‘You know what, the Syncopated Ladies are empowering girls around the world so that we have our own voices.’"
The sisters say they idolized women like Jenny Lauzon. "[She] was one of the first African-Americans to sign a contract with MGM," Arnold continues. "She’s no longer alive, but she was a trailblazer for Black women in Hollywood. And then in more recent times, Cora La Redd, Juanita Pitts, The Whitman Sisters, Diane Walker, Jermaine Ingram. These are all older African-American women that really have done tremendous work that has been overlooked.”
So what do you do when Beyoncé gives you her stamp of approval? In short, anything you want.
We know from her previous projects that whatever Bey wants, she gets. Including Le Twins, the Paris freestyle duo that caught her attention, or Tofo Tofo, who she flew in from South Africa to provide some much needed synchronization for her "Run the World" comeback. And, if they’re ready, perhaps the Syncopated Ladies as well.
“We are 100 percent ready for whatever [she] asks of us. That would be a dream for her to reach out to us. I’m just extremely thankful for all she’s done already. We feel like the level of positive energy that she has given us will multiply. We don’t know how, but whatever it is, we’re just really thankful that she is the catalyst for that.”
Already planning to take advantage of the Beyoncé effect, the ladies have a few projects underway to keep their stars burning. With a documentary, Tap World, currently on Netflix and an editorial feature on Barneys.com, this rhythmic posse's trajectory is headed in the right direction. Looking toward the future, they’re hoping the added exposure will allow them opportunities to give back in remarkable ways.
“If you think about it, for women, you have all these hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of girls around the world dancing, but their parent is saying, ‘Well, what are you gonna do with it? Where’s the job?’ And when you’re a woman in tap, really, where is the job? What we’re trying to do is create the job for the women around the world that have the talent and just need a platform to be heard.”
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(Photo: Becca Nelson, Courtesy of Chloe and Maud Productions)
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