need a voice too.” She’s spent her life looking for ways to elevate women and the dance and appearing on Fox’s award-winning dance show has always been one dream strategy to realize the goal. For seasons, the show has been focused on individual competition, so while the Syncopated Ladies have been trying to find their way to the stage for seasons, it never worked out. But that wasn’t going to stop Arnold from trying.
“When something doesn’t exist, sometimes you have to create it,” she says. “I realized people weren’t necessarily take money and put it in a tap video, so I decided we’re going to do that and market it and we’re gonna hope it catches us.” It would be easy to say “the rest was history” at that point, but like most dreams, the road to achieving the goal took the scenic route.
Arnold attended Columbia University to study film, with a goal of bringing tap dance to TV & film, and fulfilled her dance passions by performing in New York in between classes. She spent her summers teaching at Debbie Allen Dance Academy and when it was time to graduate, like any good mentor, Allen probed the young star: “What are you going to do next?” Arnold didn’t have an answer at the time, but like many entertainers she packed her bags and moved to LA in hopes of figuring it out.
It was on the West Coast that she’d meet some of the women that she’d end up organizing into The Syncopated Ladies. “We danced in the same company so we started jamming together,” says Arnold. ” Then the jam sessions turned into me saying, ‘these groups of women are amazing, we need to start working on stuff.’ So, we did some choreography and we tried to put a little sass on it. It was nice and it was sweet, but when we first started, we didn’t have the level of confidence to kick down the door just yet.”
A job on a Sean Paul video and a chance meeting with Beyonce helped set the ball in motion for the gutsy, modernized choreography that The Syncopated Ladies perform today.
“I basically crashed the audition for Sean Paul’s music video ‘Give It Up To Me’ with my tap shoes and they ended up putting me in the video,” recalls Arnold. “The video’s choreographer Tanisha Scott and I had been working on tap, but I mixed in some dance hall moves. The choreography didn’t end up making the video but it inspired me to choreograph something to Sean Paul for our group and that turned the heat up on our style.” Then Arnold’s film school credentials landed her a job as a director’s assistant on the Bey’s music video “Upgrade U” where she got to witness the pop singers meticulous work, up close, which proved to be a “life-changing experience.” “When I saw this fierce presence and execution of Beyonce’s work and the way she rocks out so hard and doesn’t apologize for being phenomenal, while simultaneously making other people feel phenomenal and showing respect to them, I said ‘I want to do that in tap’,” says Arnold. “It set me on my mission and changed everything for me.”
With a soundtrack of Beyonce’s hits, Arnold began choreographing routines that looked like they could fit right in on tour alongside the singer’s all-women band and backup dancers. And after the group started posting videos of their work on YouTube, Beyonce noticed. “She shared our video to her millions of social media followers and I was so touched because it is so rare that women on such a huge platform take the time to support other women that are trying to make their way and striving to make their mark,” says Arnold. “I couldn’t believe she used her platform to help elevate ours…after that, the show found us and came calling.”
Now that they have the nation’s attention, the Syncopated Ladies want to help people understand that while the art of tap may not have the same visibility as, say, hip-hop or other forms of dance, it still has a place in today’s landscape. One day they hope to produce their own music to perform to with plans of become a full-fledged band, but for now, they’re making the connection by producing tap tribute videos to chart-topping hits by the likes of Rihanna and Katy Perry, in between professional jobs. “In terms of our mission of being today’s female tap band, we want to keep it funky, we want to keep it fresh, we want young people to vibe to it and groove to it and relate to it,” says Arnold.
Search the group’s handle, @SyncLadies , on Twitter and you’ll find a flood of messages from young women and other fans who were moved by seeing the women’s ferocious, hard-hitting performances topped off with a healthy dose of grace and poise. Arnold says the overwhelming reaction is giving her squad arsenal to keep pushing towards their mission. “I was reading the replies and the responses and they were just honestly, so touching. It’s been so inspiring is to see how our voice inspires young women.”
As The Syncopated Ladies continue to help carve out a lane for more young women to follow in the tap dance arena, Arnold’s advice for aspiring fancy feet is to first learn how to walk the tight rope of patience and determination. “You want it so bad and you want it right now but in dance, you must have that determination to say, ‘I’m going to keep fighting’ and then soon all these pieces of the puzzle start to come together and then you start to see what you imagined.”
One step at a time.
Watch “So You Think You Can Dance” on Fox, Wednesdays at 8/7c and be sure to look out for Chloe Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies as they storm the stage in the finale!
Check out the Beyonce tribute that caught the singer’s eye in the video below and visit the group’s website SyncopatedLadies.com to see more performances!