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October 29, 2012

'Widening perceptions': 6-foot-8 tap dancer to perform in Marblehead

MARBLEHEAD — At 6 feet, 8 inches tall, when Ryan Casey says he has trouble fitting in as a dancer, he means it literally.

The ceilings of dance studios are sometimes too low for Casey, and he often bumps into other dancers when he’s warming up.

“Even for regular dance class, I don’t have the room I need to stretch out,” said Casey, who will perform “Transitions: An Evening of Tap Dance” at Marblehead Little Theatre on Sunday.

“Most people ask, if they see me, if it makes it harder,” he said. “I think I have a lot more to control than everybody else. That was the struggle growing up, to get that coordination going, and it’s something I’m still struggling to get down.”

But these physical challenges aren’t as confining as people’s preconceptions of what a dancer should look like, or the way they choreograph dances.

“My limbs give me a different look,” Casey said. “A lot of tap dancing is still very contained. The emphasis is on the footwork, and often very small footwork.

“But because I have this gift of long limbs, it’s about the visuals and using my arms and my body,” he said. “I’ve become an advocate for widening perceptions of what a dancer can look like.”

Casey, 21 and originally from Lexington, enrolled in tap dance classes at age 5 after seeing Savion Glover, star of Broadway’s “Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk,” on “Sesame Street.”

After performing with a local studio through high school, Casey moved to New York to study journalism and literature at New York University, where he also continued to dance.

It has been as a member of Dorrance Dance, a company led by tap dancer Michelle Dorrance, that Casey has hit his stride.

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