Nobody in Summer Williams’ family is surprised that she has a flourishing career as a dance instructor.
Williams, 33, who operates Rap A Tap Center for the Arts in Clairemont Mesa, grew up Perris, Calif., where, as a young girl, she would put on impromptu dance shows to entertain her family. Her parents quickly took note of her talent and interest, and enrolled Williams in local dance classes when she was 7.
Soon after, Williams entered formal training for dance.
The 2010 San Diego State University graduate received a bachelor’s in dance and minored in business administration. She followed college with two years of dancing on the East Coast, then moved back to San Diego in 2012, where she directed local dance troupes.
After earning a master’s degree in education and a teaching credential from National University, she started renting a space at C3 Church on Balboa Avenue in 2015 to teach dance. She later accepted a part-time job as a dance instructor at San Diego Creative Performing and Media Arts, a middle school in Clairemont where she had done her student teaching.
She was leading dance classes for the school by day, and at on her own in the evenings. All was well – literally – until COVID-19 hit in March 2020, closing the school and shuttering her studio time.
“We hit that fork in the road,” said, Williams, who lives in El Cajon with her husband, Michael, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and their 3-year-old son.
“I said to my husband, ‘Are we going to try, or are we going to let go?’ Because if we let go, that was going to be the time. I wanted to stay and try, he wanted to let go. So we decided to meet in the middle. If something comes, great, if not, we know it’s time.”
‘Something’ came – via Craigslist
During the early quarantine time, Williams said she was randomly looking at Craigslist offerings and could not believe her eyes.
“I saw a building for lease – it was a dance studio, on Craigslist!” Williams said. “I was like, ‘What the heck?’ I thought somebody was faking it. But we went to the place and found out another dance studio had left and left all the equipment. I said to Michael, ‘Oh my goodness. If this isn’t the time, I don’t know what is.’”
Williams ended up leasing the building during the early part of the pandemic in July 2020.
“Opening up a studio was always a dream of mine,” said Williams, owner and artistic director at Rap A Tap, a dance studio that specializes in tap, jazz, hip hop and ballet.
When state regulations would not allow the studio to open for dance in the past year, “we got real creative,” Williams said.
Until November 2020, Rap A Tap held classes in a nearby park and in the parking lot where the studio is located, in a strip mall nestled in between houses in Clairemont Mesa. Williams also held Zoom classes and offered them free of charge and held a virtual recital as well.
Williams and five other instructors are now able to teach live and in person again from 4 to 7 p.m. daily inside the cozy studio and Rap A Tap has more than 100 enrolled students.
Honoring Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson
Williams named her Clairemont Mesa studio after the sounds made by Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and teaches all of her students about him. Robinson was a tap dancer, actor and singer whose heyday came in the 1920s and ‘30s. He was at one time the mostly highly paid Black entertainer in the U.S.
“Bojangles is a very iconic person in the world of tap,” Williams said. “The opportunities he created for tap dancers in TV and film for African Americans is well documented, like the dancing with him and Shirley Temple. He paved a lot of the way for what we see now.”
Rap A Tap Center for the Arts
FOUNDER: Summer Williams
HEADQUARTERS: 3585 Mt. Acadia Blvd.
BUSINESS: Dance studio
NOTABLE: Summer Williams’ mom was a professional singer, her father is a pastor at a church and her brothers are music producers.