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RISE

Tapper Ryan P. Casey is hard to miss

Ryan P. Casey.
Ryan P. Casey. Nathan Sayers

Age: 24

Hometown: Casey was born in Medford and grew up in Lexington. After graduating from NYU, he moved back to the area in 2013 and now lives in Woburn.

Think of: “Everybody says I remind them of Tommy Tune. I think it’s just because I’m a tall tap dancer, but that’s fine with me. Stylistically, I’ve had some comparisons to Fred Astaire, and I’m happier with that.”

What caught our eye: At an eye-popping 6-foot-8, the young tapper is literally a head above the rest, but he also has the skills to warrant the attention. Dance Magazine just named him one of its “25 to Watch,” noting his choreographic imagination and “freakishly clean footwork.” He’s danced with a number of heavyweights, including Michelle Dorrance, but is now focusing on soloing and work with his own company, Ryan P. Casey & Dancers.

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Lightbulb moment: Casey says his interest in tap started at the age of 5, when he saw Savion Glover perform on “Sesame Street” and immediately asked for dance classes. “But I don’t think I really had a lightbulb moment. I went to New York City a lot with my mother, and she exposed me to a lot of shows — ‘Stomp,’ ‘Noise/Funk,’ ‘Riverdance,’ [which] solidified my passion for the arts.”

Biggest thrill: “This past summer, I presented some work with my company on the outdoor stage at Jacobs Pillow. I never thought that I would really dance very seriously after high school. I thought I’d take classes, maybe join a company as something to do on weekends, but I never envisioned tap as a career. So to bring my company to such a mecca of dance and present for a huge audience was really special.”

Biggest surprise: “That here I am doing this! Also that I have people say they really want to study with me or they’re really happy they had a chance to take a class with me. I’m always flattered and surprised.”

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Inspired by: Michelle Dorrance “really opened my eyes to what tap choreography could be. So much of my experimentation is due to that. I am continuously inspired by Fred Astaire, some of the ways he experimented and made such simple things look so brilliant.”

Aspires to: “I just want to keep teaching, choreographing, producing original shows. I’d like to be able to take them farther, travel more. I’d also like to do more educational programs, bring dance into schools. And I would like to be part of the movement to get tap back in the public eye a little more.”

For good luck: “I have a note from my dance teacher [The Dance Inn’s Thelma Goldberg], that’s my go-to thing if I’m feeling down about my career or work. I read this note and it gives me an extra kick in the pants.”

What people should know: Casey teaches tap at Boston University and several area studios, but he also teaches Latin at his alma mater, Lexington High. “I always wanted to be a teacher and a writer, so I’m fulfilling both those things, and dance is really a fun bonus. I am very introverted, very much a listener and observer rather than a talker, but I still try to be a leader.”

Coming soon: On Feb. 6-7 at The Dance Complex in Cambridge, Casey debuts a new work-in-progress called “Gumshoes in Tap Shoes,” which he calls a “tap dance noir.”

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Links: ryanpcasey.com

KAREN CAMPBELL


Karen Campbell can be reached at karencampbell4@rcn.com.