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Melba Ayco

Seattle tap studio blends dance with social justice

The Northwest Tap Connection dance studio is tucked away in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood. But it’s more than just a dance studio; it’s also a space for conversations about race, identity and social justice, with students ranging from pre-K to high school.

Melba Ayco is one of Northwest Tap Connection’s founders and a 31-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department. Ayco, who goes by Ms. Melba, spends several nights a week challenging students to not only excel in artistry, but also in practical life skills.

Or as Ms. Melba puts it: “This studio is about raising a generation of socially-conscious young people. And that dancing in reality is the hook. The goal is to change the dynamics of how young people think and how they see the world.”Northwest Tap Connection serves over 150 students every week.

The classes blend dance skills with storytelling about social issues. The school’s performances have garnered notoriety, including the short feature “Hell You Talmbout” about police brutality.

Ms. Melba said she’s proud of what Northwest Tap Connection has achieved.“We have a 100 percent success ratio for children who go through our programs that don’t end up on the prison pipeline,” she said. “We have a 100 percent success ratio for bringing out artistic pieces of work that really are relevant to what’s happening now, right now in this time.”Northwest Tap Performs Monday, March 5, at Seattle University for the program African American Odyssey — an evening of dance, music, and spoken word.