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Local News

Villa Park siblings high step toward dancing careers

VILLA PARK – Following a brief discussion in the middle of an empty studio at DeForest Dance Academy in Elmhurst, siblings Lilly and Anthony Clampit launch into a tap duet, their feet slapping the floor in unison as their limbs flail in cohesive movements.

"Despite living under the same roof, we have developed very different styles of tap," said Anthony, 15, a sophomore at Willowbrook High School. "Trying to choreograph can cause some sibling rivalry, but when it comes together, it's a really neat hybrid."

For the fourth straight year, Anthony and his older sister, Lilly, 17, were both named 2014 Tap Scholars through the Chicago Human Rhythm Project. The Villa Park siblings will each be awarded a $1,000 scholarship to attend the organization's Rhythm World Festival, which takes place from July 7 to August 3 in Chicago.

This year, the Chicago Human Rhythm Project selected 14 tap scholars hailing from as far off as Canada and Brazil.

"It's a great opportunity and you get to know people and connect with teachers from around the world," said Lilly, a senior at Willowbrook.

Lilly, who teaches tap dance at DeForest, is also a member of M.A.D.D. Rhythms, a professional tap team from Chicago. However, her affinity for the art form wasn't always there. In fact, she admits to initially hating it.

"I told my parents, 'That's it, I'm done'," Lilly said. "It wasn't fun and the classes weren't enjoyable."

Convinced to give it one last shot, Lilly enrolled in a class at DeForest under the direction of instructor Ashley DeForest.

"I came out of the [first] class an hour later and my mind was completely different," Lilly said. "She made it so much more fun and interesting – I loved it. After that, it really took off."

Despite the common misconception, tap dancing is more than just moving your feet, Lilly explained.

"You definitely move your body, too, and you can really make music," she said. "A lot of people use tap as an instrument and I think that's really cool."

For Anthony, there was no inspiration for giving the craft a try.

"I was just really bored and tried it out," he said with a laugh. "Turned out, I absolutely loved it."

Following a similar path as his sister, Anthony, also a member of M.A.D.D. Rhythm, quickly honed his own style.

"You have to have an open personality and practice to create your own style," he said. "You can't just be a technician – you have to actually dance."

Lane Alexander, founder and artistic director of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, said he has seen the Clampits grow as dancers and as young adults.

"It's been amazing to see them progress," Alexander said. "They've been coming for years and I'm happy to see them once again earn scholarships to the program."

Tap Scholars, now in its 19th year, has provided scholarships to more than 200 young tap dancers, Alexander said.

Each year, he said the project provides a minimum of $10,000 in tuition waivers for deserving dancers to attend the Rhythm World festival.

Rhythm World annually attracts hundreds of students and teachers from around the world. Classes take place at a variety of venues in Chicago's Loop, most notably the American Rhythm Center, located in the Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue.

"This year, we have close to 20 master teachers coming here for a full month of classes," Alexander said.

Past Tap Scholars have gone on to successful careers in teaching, choreography and performing – a path both Lilly and Anthony hope to follow. But for now, the two are simply enjoying the ride, both as individual dancers and as creative collaborators.

"It's a lot of fun," Lilly said. "Of course, we fight sometimes, but we stick together."

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For more information on the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, visit

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Next performances

Lilly and Anthony Clampit have several upcoming performances with M.A.D.D. Rhythms:

• 1 p.m. July 23: Family Fun Fest, Millennium Park, Chicago

• 1 p.m. Aug. 7: Family Fun Fest, Millennium Park, Chicago

• Noon, Aug. 22: The Living Loop Festival, Macy's Department Store, 111 N. State St., Chicago

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