Masters Of American Tap Dance

Sarah Petronio

Jazz Tap Artist Sarah Petronio was born and raised in India. She immigrated to New York at the age of 19 and later moved to Paris, France, where she became the dancing partner of Tap Legend Jimmy Slyde for a short while in the '70's. The duo performed in “It's About Time - an evening of tap and jazz” at concerts, and Jazz festivals.

A master teacher and performer and a major force in introducing rhythm tap to French audiences, Petronio founded the Gît-le-Coeur Cultural Center, the Paris Tap Dance Company and the Tap Dance Department of the American Center in Paris. In 1994, she joined the faculty of the Dance Center of Columbia College in Chicago and created the “Chicago on Tap" festival. She has appeared at festivals in New York, Colorado, Portland, Boston, Texas, Saint Louis, Kansas, Montana, Chicago, Israel, Hamburg, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Tokyo, Russia, Spain, Netherlands...

Sarah has been the recipient of Russia’s Tapparade award for Recognition of Accomplishments in Teaching and Performing Tap Dancing, The Lexington Tapestry award for teaching with passion, dedication and inspiration, The Soul to Sole award for Timeless Dedication to the Art of Tap Dancing and the 2005 Hoofer award at New York's Tap City Festival. In 2007, she was requested by the French National Dance Center to teach the prestigious “La Grande Léçon” giving the audience an intimate, inside look at a master teacher at work. She has appeared in the film “Honi Coles, A Class Act” and has been a part of several French television documentaries on Tap Dancing including “Les Claquettes, quel pied!”

She has broken ground as a woman in the jazz world, bringing her special style of rhythms and improvisation to jazz clubs and jazz festivals: Umbria Jazz, Jazz Yatra India, Juan les Pins, Antibes, Avignon, Cannes, Ravinia, Fremantle Jazz...

Sarah has shared the stage with Gregory Hines, Honi Coles, Steve Condos, Lon Chaney, Chuck Green, the Nicholas Brothers, LaVaughn Robinson, Savion Glover, Brenda Bufalino, Dianne Walker, Lynn Dally, Acia Gray and many other very talented tap dancers...

Currently residing in Paris, she regularly performs her “Jazz In Motion”©, “When Tap Meets Jazz”© and “Tap Messengers”© concerts with Leela Petronio, and guest artists, accompanied by some of Europe's finest musicians. She continues to conduct intensive master classes for dancers and teachers.

“Sarah Petronio is one of our veritable jazz tap dancers whose musicality, phrasing, intricate rhythmic motifs, swing, and insistence on listening to and working with jazz musicians in performance truly distinguish her as a jazz dancer. She blurs the boundaries between the music and dance, refusing that the music be mere accompaniment. Her ethos of improvisation, and the way in which she listens to and inserts herself into the musical ensemble is similar in practice to the great Baby Laurence – though her sound and her rhythmic sensibilities are totally her own. She is an original jazz tap dance artist.”
– Constance Valis Hill, dance historian

“Imagine the breezy, freewheeling tap of Bill Robinson, the stage savvy of Sammy
Davis Jr. and the unpredictable rhythms of Thelonious Monk, and you'll understand the basic vocabulary of Petronio's art. Listen closely and you'll hear some fascinating rhythms; watch closely and you'll see an actress whose mood, expression and tone change constantly. Her work genuinely constitutes jazz; the rhythms she articulates and the way she embellishes and improvises upon the work of her rhythm section falls easily within the acoustic jazz tradition. Petronio is a rare artist – an original.”

– Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune Arts/Jazz Critic

“Petronio moved past jazz-tap's expected musical base, the easy swing rhythms of Count Basie; instead she prefers to apply her feet to music by more modern artists such as Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, Bill Evans and Carlos Jobim. But she solos with the straightforward delight in pure motion that characterized Basie's greatest drummer, Jo Jones.”
– Neil Tesser, Jazz Critic Chicago Reader

“An exaltation was present in « Just You, Just Me » an improvisational duet performed by the great Jimmy Slyde and Sarah Petronio, a dream of a dancer, who has the relaxed and wordly chic of an American transplant to Paris, where she has taught generations of tap performers.”
– Jennifer Dunning, dance critic, New York Times

Sarah Petronio can be reached at

Photo Credits:

Main Photo: © Peter Petronio

1st Profile Photo: © Peter Petronio

2nd Profile Photo: © Antoine Poupel