For D.C.-born-and-raised choreographer Chloe Arnold, the name Syncopated Ladies says it all, in two ways.
“Syncopated rhythms, when the accents are on the offbeat, form the foundation of African and diasporic music. It gives music a funky and soulful feeling, and we’re bringing that flavor to tap,” Arnold shares about her LA-based, all female dance band known for an eclectic and electric mix of musical genres, dance styles and mediums.
“Our shorter name is Sync Ladies. It’s not just because we’re ‘in sync,’ like every step is the same. It’s because we are aligned. Our morals, our values, and our drives are all related to uplifting one another and our communities through the language of tap.”
Arnold’s and her fellow Ladies — Anissa Lee, Assata Madison, Gisele Silva, Pamela Yasutake and Arnold’s sister Maud — fluency in dance will be on full display during their February 20 performance at the Lincoln Theatre. Washington Performing Arts presents the troupe as part of the institution’s 2021-22 season.
Describing the show, Arnold speaks about dance as a relationship between performer and audience. The idea informs every aspect of the show, starting with music choice.
“Every song we dance to is inspired by something deep within each of us. So, Beyoncé. I mean, it’s not a mystery as to why,” Arnold says with a knowing laugh (“Formation” is one of Sync Ladies’ most viral videos, which Queen Bey herself shared on social media). “She has created a body of work that speaks to the journey of a Black woman. In many ways, her music is like a soundtrack to our lives.”
“We have a few acapella numbers where we are the music, literally, and you’re also going to hear Chance the Rapper, Kanye, Ciara and Adele,” Arnold continues. “We feel the audience will connect to the music because it’s music we authentically love.”
“The entire show has a digital component,” Arnold says, fitting for a company whose online videos have racked up more than 50 million views and who have been featured on shows like So You Think You Can Dance, The Kelly Clarkson Show, and Good Morning America. Arnold herself received an Emmy nomination for her work on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
“Audiences have loved being able to connect the dots between what they’ve been watching on screens and who we are as people onstage,” she shares.
To help connect those dots, the Ladies will share their personal stories through monologues.
“It’s exciting to give the mic to the Ladies to amplify their experiences. All of us are educated Black women with strong, empowered voices. When the audience hears our experiences, all the things we’ve had to overcome and where we’re heading, I hope they get inspiration and hope to go in the direction of their dreams.”
Arnold is quick to honor the women who inspired her and Maud, starting with their mother who enrolled them in dance classes at a young age. The two studied with Toni Lombre, the dance teacher and founder of Taps and Company, who encouraged them to audition for a program run by award-winning actress, dancer, choreographer and 2021 Kennedy Center Honoree Debbie Allen.
“Debbie was the driving force for our excellence,” Arnold shares. “She [looked] deep within our souls and saw things we couldn’t see in ourselves, and then relentlessly pulled us out of doubt and onto a platform to grow and thrive.”
Returning to D.C. allows the Arnold sisters the opportunity to give back to the community that shaped them.
“Coming to D.C. is always special. I cherish the richness of culture I grew up in, the beauty and diversity of Black people and People of Color.”
Arnold particularly points to the opportunities to see and learn from tap greats like Gregory Hines, the Nicholas Brothers, and Dianne Walker, all of whom Washington Performing Arts brought to D.C. during the sisters’ youth. Discussing going from a student and patron of Washington Performing Arts to a performer, Arnold says, “It’s amazing to come full circle, to have Washington Performing Arts bring back my sister and me to give to our community the way that we were given to. We know how impacting that is, and we honor it.”
In addition to the Sync Ladies, the sisters run the Chloe and Maud Foundation, dedicated to providing educational programming in dance and entrepreneurship, as well as fighting for social justice, among other programs. 2021 saw the 13th edition of their Annual DC Tap Festival.
Preparations for the performance, and an upcoming tour, are intense. Staying focused on the ‘why’ keeps the Sync Ladies mentally and physically aligned during the regimen of gym training, video shoots, and rehearsals.
“After the pandemic, we want to remind audiences that all of us, as humans, are resilient, can power through, above, and beyond, can heal, re-energize and move forward. So we leave nothing out during the performance. We’re going to give it all to you like professional athletes, like absolute rock stars.”
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