Dancing with Donny

Happy Thursday San Diego Dancers! We are so excited to get back up and running with the launch of our new website through WordPress. With everything that has been happening not only in our community but in the world, we hope to give you a break from the unknown and are ecstatic to be able to introduce you to Donny Gersonde, a San Diego native tap and theater dancer!

Donny hated tap dance at first, his teachers and fellow peers influenced his love for this genre- it wasn’t until Colleen Kollar Smith became his tap teacher that the game was changed for him. His original tap teacher wasn’t very interested in this genre, which led him to check out in the beginning of his dance journey. Smith got him “up on his toes” and got him his first professional job! The rest is history.

Do you specialize in rhythm tap or show tap and why is this your preferred category?

Donny learned tapping at CoSA (Coronado School of the Arts) where he got the lay of the land with basics, but it’s the shows he performs in that really teaches him more about his craft. “Musical Theater (Show Tap) speaks to me,” states Gersonde “There’s such an energy to it. I like to move and get flowing. That’s where I make a lot of my money with SDMT (San Diego Musical Theater). It’s so in your feet with Rhythm Tap. It’s the one that makes me wants to cry,” Gersonde tells us with humor. “My friend Jeffrey helps remind me that tap class is humbling for everyone.”

How did you discover the San Diego dance scene?

Donny was born and raised in San Diego, and before he moved to the East Coast for 6 years, he went to CoSA, a performing arts program. After he lived in New York City for 2 years, he knew he was ready to head back to the West Coast. “It’s so saturated and there’s so many people trying to do the same thing,” Gersonde informs us on what he learned about being in Theater in NYC. “The crazy thing I had to think about that a lot of peoples first experience with theater is not in NYC. Think about it, the number of people that have seen theater and the number that have seen a Broadway show, the numbers are drastically different. I love being able to be here and being able to teach 26 classes a week.” He’s also in shows on top of the classes he teaches, busy guy!

” When performing in groups, it’s more about timing + cleanliness vs. awesome moves. The advanced moves sound bad as a collective.” -Gersonde

Fave Performance? The monster in Young Frankenstein: “I got to put so many of my skills that I have into one character.”

Famous tapper who gave him inspiration?

Donny remembers watching Singing in the Rain, the movie, when he was younger and thinking he wanted to dance like Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. “It’s a two-for-one, seeing a man dance with such masculinity and grace and so much love and energy and knowing that I love watching the Gene Kelly Style, it’s a look of cleanliness. Donald O’Connor was someone comedic with dance. I find myself wanting to emulate that even in the things I create without even thinking about it.”

Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire got men tapping in America, this is huge and another reason why tap is so important for us to remember and keep alive. From your perspective, how do you think they influenced the male presence in dance?

Donny feels that ballet is the most masculine dance form, being that it is all muscle: “These girls are hurting and working.” With tap, it is seen as more of a male accepted dance form because “it is percussion, an instrument. It’s like drums with your feet. I try to tell anyone, male or female to be honest with an interest in tap STICK WITH IT because if you’re good at it, people will know and will use you, and use you, and use you. It’s a hard find, tappers are a hard find. People STOP and they listen, it’s incredible. I love tap.”

“I can actually show you a lot without words, which is funny because I talk so much.”
– Gersonde

Fave Tapper?

Vera Ellen in White Christmas inspired Gersonde for this dance session he is teaching currently, adding turns and claps that help to add more energy as Vera Ellen exudes. “She’s incredible. She’s just so energetic, you can’t help but watch her. That’s what she’s known for, the nerve tap. She’s extra.”

Where are some unusual places you’ve been?

Gersonde is a proclaimed Californian so when he was in New York, he “felt like a fish out of water.” He worked down in Times Square on 49th and Broadway- “taught me a lot, the WORLD wants to go to that spot. You learn a lot about people.”

Want some inspiration? Gersonde tunes to Big Band music, looks at art pieces, and takes from people that he works with, asking them their favorite phrase and modifying from there. “I think there is so much knowledge in watching, and not just doing.”

What is your Mission Statement for the San Diego Dance Community?

“Everyone can dance and everyone should dance, and I didn’t say dance well (slight laugh). Just dance, don’t care about it and have fun with it, it will release more than you think it will.”

He may look out of this world in this photo, but Donny is just like the rest of us on his days off of dancing where he likes to cook pasta, eat bread, and play with new soup recipes.


💋Xclusively Dance San Diego

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