Ella Lehaf packs her tap shoes, books and love of life for her travels.
I first met Ella on one of my Sharing Bali fitness retreats. Our next meet up was in The French Alps and it was so nice to find out more about Ella’s Tap Family around the world, her top tips after 6 weeks of roaming Europe and the UK and how getting over fears and leaving past regrets behind has shaped her world.
On our last night Ella enthralled us with an impromptu tap dance in the dining room, jamming with a French singer we met for the first time over dinner. We all fell a little in love with tap dancing.
Karen: When did you first step into a pair of Tap shoes?
Ella: I started tap dancing when I was 11 years old. My big sister wanted to Tap and my mum thought it was a good idea for all of us to try it together. We went to a church hall and did our first class, with an accompanying pianist in the room!
Karen: What’s to love about it? Who should try it?
Ella: There is so much to love about the art form – the versatility, accessibility, diversity, musicality and the tap family (which is the entire Tap community all over the world) – it brings people together and it does not discriminate. Everyone should try it, there is no age limit, you don’t have to be a particular body type and you don’t even need tap shoes. It’s a great activity for fitness and an outlet to express yourself creatively.
Karen: Most of us know the classic dance scenes by Fred & Ginger. Who are your icons of today?
Ella: There are many icons today, to name a few that are leading the way and bringing Tap to the forefront: Melinda Sullivan, Michelle Dorrance, Chloe Arnold, Sarah Reich, Jason Samuel Smith, Savion Glover, Nicholas Young and then there are the masters who are still dancing into their later years and inspiring and teaching upcoming artists – Ted Levy, Arthur Duncan, Dianne Walker, Brenda Bufalino – the list could go on!
On the local front in Australia, we have the likes of Winston Morrison, Peta Anderson, Thomas Egan, Brianna Taylor and again the list could go on.
Karen: I’m sure you’ve tapped in some extraordinary places. Which one tops the ‘most bizarre’ list?
Ella: The most bizarre…well possibly the Old Melbourne Gaol – it was an interesting setting and the acoustics were different to any other gig as we were dancing on metal balcony in front of jail cells, with the audience below looking up.
Karen: I had no idea that Tap Dancers meet up and jam all around the world. How does it work?
Ella: There are regular improvisation nights, some planned but many spontaneous. A tap dancer will always take their Tap shoes when visiting a jazz bar in case of an opportunity to jump up and jam with the band. When you are travelling, it’s easy to reach out to the Tap community and say you’ll be in town and get together in a studio, on the street with a piece of wood and jam. There are also regular events such as the London Tap Jam – monthly event where there is a live band and tap dancers are invited to take part.
Karen: There must be some quirks to travelling as a Tap Dancer. Do you pack your own wooden plank and screwdriver?
Ella: I always have a screwdriver and tap shoes – portable tap boards are a little harder to carry when you are travelling, but you can always find a piece of wood – on a pier, bridges, pallets and many other surfaces.
Karen: Tap is obviously more than a hobby, it’s a way of life for you. You not only practice and perform, The Australian Tap Dance Festival is one of your event management gigs. How did you get involved and what’s it all about?
Ella: I was always involved since starting Tap but my heavy involvement started when I met Winston Morrison in 2009. He introduced me to more performance, teaching and international outlets for the art form. As a professional tap dancer himself who has taught and performed around the world, he recognised there was a gap in Tap education and the level of tap in Australia – so many people would state ‘it is a dying art’, which is so far from the truth. With tap festivals taking place all over the world showcasing Tap and its place in the world today, we decided Australia needed to step up and have a platform to represent the local industry and provide opportunities for students and teachers to gain more knowledge, tools and understanding of the possibilities through Tap. In 2012 we ran the first Australian Tap Dance Festival and we have been growing it ever since
Karen: Lets talk travel. I could barely keep up with your IG feed as you blazed your way through the UK and Europe before meeting us in The French Alps. Can you give us your destination Hit List and what not to miss?
SEE: Infinite Bridge – interactive cultural artwork on the beachfront and the Rainbow Panorama at the Aarhus contemporary arts museum. DO: go to the Salling Rooftop for drinks and views of the city. EAT: Flæskesteg roll from a food truck and any of the food at the ARoS food hall.
SEE: Ampelmann Shop – iconic brand based on the Eastern traffic light walking man. DO: 3 hour Dog Whisperer hike – a fabulous exploration of a forest with a dog walker and his 16 dogs! EAT: Actually here i found an amazing cocktail experience at Limonadier – highly recommend!
SEE: Krka National Park & Plitvice Lakes – natural colour of nature like you’ve never seen. DO: Walk the wall around the old town in Dubrovnik. EAT: Seafood – it was delicious everywhere i went!
I spent one day here to eat 🙂 – it is the falafel capital of Europe and they live up to the expectations – Shawarmaking is the place to go! And then indulge in a Swedish Fika at Lilla Kafferosteriet
SEE: Movies & Miniature Museum. DO: Take the telecabin up the hill for a view of the entire city. EAT: Les Halles De Lyon Paul Bocuse – a delectable range of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Lakes District, Red Car, Blackpool, London, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Dorset, Liverpool – ENGLAND
SEE: Here are a small selection of highlight recommendations: Lake District – John Ruskin House, sunset boat ride on the lake. Bristol – Wallace & Gromit art everywhere. Liverpool – Beatles Museum and the Beatles bus tour, Liverpool TATE. Oxford – Free walking tour. Blackpool – Comedy carpet. Cambridge – Punting tour. Dorset – sunset at Durdle Door coastline. EAT: The Florist for food and Hyde & Co for drinks in Bristol, Sketch in London. DO: Road trip around England!
Karen: I will forever remember being shocked by the weight of your day pack. You’re one of the few travellers I know who has six or so good books for company. Care to share the titles you were toting around?
Ella: I am a little book obsessed and I kept collecting on the way – once I finished a book though, I would pass it on to someone else wherever I was at the time. The list of books on this trip were:
Shoe Dog – Phil Knight. Enchiridion & Commonplace Book – Joshua Humphreys. A Little History of Philosphy – Nigel Warburton. 3 books from a small series – Desire by Haruki Murakami, Money by Yuval Noah Harari, Work by Joseph Heller. Praeterita – John Ruskin. Still Me – Jojo Moyes
Karen: You have to be one of the most free spirited travellers I’ve ever met. And I’m not talking the aimless wanderer type. All I can say is that once you arrived, you were IN. After one day you were on first name terms at the Fromagerie; hiking or biking, you did it with a smile on your face; befriended every dog we met; embraced the food and wine with gusto and were equally happy sharing your stories over dinner, or taking quiet time in the garden with a book.
At the same time you found space to keep your life tapping along (excuse the pun), quietly dealing with emails, social media, keeping your businesses going. Like all successful solo entrepreneurs, I could see you embracing new ideas and possibilities as they came up in conversation. Where does this drive, this spirit come from?
Ella: Life is an adventure and I remind myself of this daily. It’s been a long journey to this point and there have been so many experiences that have contributed to this. My experience with Tap family is definitely an ongoing influence, my Dad’s battle with cancer taught me so much about perspective, understanding, love, support, gratitude, fear and stress, my 7 year relationship saw a huge shift in my own personal development and self awareness, jobs i’ve had always provide more knowledge and understanding of people and the workplace – when i think about it, i take something from all my experiences and apply it to how I see the world.
In the past i would fear change, the future, the what ifs and now I’ve chosen to embrace the challenges and change – it’s inevitable, so i don’t find it helpful to my own wellbeing or those around me to fear these anymore. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities i have and i want to be able to help others.
When you experience certain life changing events, it continues to put life in perspective and the short time we have here and how we get lost in regrets of the past and fear of the future. We need to be kind to ourselves, remember the bigger picture and be more present.
Some quotes I live by:
The only way to do great work is to love what you do – Steve Jobs
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity – Seneca
Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being excited of what could go right – Tony Robbins
If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done – Thomas Jefferson
Do it big, do it right and do it with style – Fred Astaire
Karen: I believe there’s always a ‘best moment’ in every day, even on days when life leaves you in a mess. Everyone sharing their ‘best moments’ around the dinner table in France was so enlightening. I have to finish up by asking…. what was your ‘best moment’ today?
Ella: Today’s best moment – receiving the stellar review of the Australian Tap Dance Festival gala performance – i’m so proud of the tap fam and what we achieved – it put the biggest smile on my face, reading how well the show was received and having the opportunity to work and perform alongside the incredible artists.
If you’d like a taste of Ella’s experiences in The French Alps join us in July 2019 for the next SharingThe French Alps trip. Meet the dogs, get to know the owner of the Fromagerie, hike or e-bike every day, enjoy homestyle French cooking, wine and good company at our dining table under the willow tree.
Need a hotel on your travels? I use Agoda.com.