Karen Callaway Williams
KAREN CALLAWAY WILLIAMS is known for being both the first African-American female tap dancer and dance captain in RIVERDANCE – THE SHOW and the only African-American female tap dancer and dance captain in RIVERDANCE – ON BROADWAY. Other Broadway credits include the Tony Award nominated Duke Ellington musical PLAY ON. She is featured on the cover of Flow Magazine and in the documentary BEEN RICH ALL MY LIFE the story of the Silver Belle, a group of Chorus Girls from the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s. She is currently a Second Generation Silver Belle and the Artistic Director of this group.
Karen has toured extensively performing in 35 States and 13 countries having returned from a two and a half month run of HINTON BATTLE’S AMERICAN VARIETY BANG in Osaka, Japan. She has also traveled to Zurich Switzerland for the forth time as instructor for the Zurich Tap Festival, The United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain) with the Duke Ellington Big Band, Armenia and Romania with TAP CITY ON TOUR through the Unites States Embassy, the ALL THAT TAP TAIPEI festival in Taiwan, on Canadian soil with TAP GIANTS and Tap TEL AVIV and in Beijing, China, Canada and North America with the RIVERDANCE Flying Squad and RIVERDANCE, Boyne Company.
Karen is mentioned several times in the Tap History book TAP DANCING AMERICA by Constance Valis Hill, was featured in a Black History edition of ESSENCE Magazine, which highlighted four female African-American tap artists and on the recording of Music From The Sacred Concerts Edward Kennedy Ellington as performed by the Princeton University Concert Jazz Ensemble as the Tap Dancer in David Danced Before the Lord a role not commonly performed by a female dancer. She reprised this role in April 2015. She was also interviewed on BOJANGLES THE LEGACY for SHOWTIME as well as in a special guest spot on “SESAME STREET”. A graduate of Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia, she is also an alumna of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center (AAADC) in New York.
In 2013, Karen was a Flo-Bert Honoree and received the Florence Mills Award and was awarded in July 2015 with the prestigious Hoofers Award from the American Tap Dance Foundation. DANCE MAGAZINE heralded her as “a graceful dream with taps as happy as a song” and the New York Times called her “a gifted traditionalist with laughing eyes”. Karen is a Featured Artist and was the first Dance Captain and charter member of the NEW JERSEY TAP ENSEMBLE, having recently celebrated 20 years with the company, performing in their high energy shows A STOP ON THE A-TRAIN, THE NEXT STEP, RHYTHM IS OUR BUSINESS, BY GEORGE IT’S GERSHWIN and PASS IT ON. She is also the NJTAP2 Coordinator.
Karen has been featured as a tap solo artist with the Baltimore and New Jersey Symphony Orchestras on several occasions performing several movements from the iconic“MORTON GOULD’S TAP DANCE CONCERTO ”. She was also a featured soloist for the Detroit and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras for their YULETIDE CELEBRATIONS, as well as the BSO HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR and in ALL THAT JAZZ with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In addition she was a soloist and special guest choreographer for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra as well as a special guest solo artist in AN INVITATION TO THE DANCE with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Three memorable performances were held at THE HOLE IN THE WALL GANG CAMP for Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, the COTTON CLUB in Harlem with Debbie Sledge of Sister Sledge and her sisters and at the APOLLO THEATRE with the original Silver Belles for President Bill Clinton.Karen danced with the Duke Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington and later as a soloist for Paul Ellington nationally and internationally. She was also in Lincoln Center’s Reel to Real Series, including YANKEE DOODLE BOYS, THE BROTHERHOOD OF TAP and STORY T’ELLINGTON, all choreographed by Mercedes Ellington.
In addition to performing, Ms. Williams has established herself as a prominent tap instructor teaching statewide on a weekly basis for more than 30 years. Her teaching history includes Spelman College, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Poly-Ethnic Preparatory Country Day School, the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan, The New Jersey Performing Arts Center Dance Academy, Art Stone’s Dance Olympus, the New York City Dance Alliance, national and international tap festivals, dance camps, master classes and enrichment programs. She also gives lecturer/demonstrations and educational assembly programs in elementary, middle and high schools for the Paper Mill Playhouse on “Legends of Tap Dance”.
Karen is also the Producer of Rhythms for Ruby (the show) and the author of Gabriella’s Tap Shoes.