Tap dancing across the pond – Interview with Max Pollak

Tap-dancing across the pond – Rumba Tap brings cultures together

Max Pollak is the inventor of RumbaTap

Learn from old masters, gain deep insights into the music of different cultures and let something new emerge from it: A dream.

To call Max Pollak “only” as a step dancer would have been a far cry. Clear: his tap dance art seeks its equal and finds worldwide recognition. However, this is only part of his musicality. Max Pollak is a researcher between cultures and stylistics. He is constantly changing and always manages to combine elements such as dance, body percussion, vocals with any kind of music.

In this episode we will learn exciting things about his development, about music with the body, about the history of the Stepp dance, about Afro-Cuban music and his creation “Rumba Tap”

Some topics of the conversation

  • Tap dance and body percussion
  • sound aesthetics
  • Step the music or step to the music?
  • Audition with consequences
  • Music cultures in the mix
  • RumbaTap
  • stage surfaces
  • The “old” masters

Music in the program

  1. “RumbaTap Standard”, “Max Pollak”, CD “Rumbatap”, with special guest Pedrito Marinez (congas and solo vocals), 2015
  2. “Tap Jam Impro”, “Max Pollak” with the musicians “Moritz Schippers” (org) and “Moritz Baranczyk” (dr), live improvisation as part of the Aachen Tap Jam 2016 “Vacunao”
  3. “Vale Todo”, “Los Muñequitos de Matanzas”, CD “Vacunao”, 1995 Qbadisc Records

Max Pollak

“Jazz is basically African music combined with Jewish and European music. That makes the whole thing so interesting “

Max with jazz drummer legend Victor Jones at a concert in New York


“I feel like a drummer who can move.”

Max Pollak, born on 1.9.1970 in Vienna (A), started to quilt at the age of 5, inspired by Fred Astaire, among others. Since there was no Stepp dance teacher in Vienna at the time, Max learned autodidactic in the first few years. At the age of 11 he took his first dance lessons, at the age of 14 he started playing drums and percussion.

His thirst for knowledge made him constantly develop and research. For example, he played as a teenager in a New Orleans marching band, which also performed at funerals, which allowed him to learn in addition to insights into the music and the spiritual level of the same. After completing his schooling at a high school near Vienna, he studied musical, drama and singing in Vienna and also played theater.

During a short vacation in New York, prompted by a friend, he spontaneously went to an audition of the successful tap dance group “Manhattan Tap”, convinced the director Heather Cornell and passed the audition. New ways opened up: A change of location was on. He says himself “I knew exactly what I really wanted” and he thought back then “So you do not get that chance my dear again in life. You’re beating now, or you’ll regret it all your life. “

Due to the great fortune of being able to work with many “old” experienced musicians such as his first mentor Carnell Lyons (who was still on stage with Charlie Parker), he was able to learn the source of music and quilting.

Since 1991 he lives in New York and has become one of the stars of the international tap dance scene. He has received many awards in his field. Through his high musicality and his highly individual way of mixing Afro-Cuban music and dance with body percussion and tap dancing, he gained worldwide fame. He is the inventor of RumbaTap and the only non-Cuban member of the legendary rumba group Los Muñequitos de Matanzas. Max collaborates with many artists from the international jazz, classical & world music scene. His great strength is to bring all of these styles together through the power of dance and rhythm, taking the audience with them.

In his live performances, he always involves the audience, drawing an energy-charged arc across the music and the dance to the audience.

Max Pollak is “… one of the finest young tap artists on the planet”

(Gregory Hines)

Discography (excerpt)

  • TrioNada (2008) TrioNada
  • Roots Propaganda (2008) Paul Carlon Octet
  • Lalo’s Urban Myth (2008) Lalo’s Urban Myth
  • Lo Que Somos Lo Que Sea (2008) Grupo Los Santos
  • Other Tongues (2007) Paul Carlon Octet
  • Love The Donkey (2005) Beat The Donkey
  • Cyro Baptista & Beat The Donkey (2002) Beat The Donkey
  • El Otro Lado (2001) Syoto’s Band and members of the Tito Puente Orchestra
  • Cool Heat – Urban Beat (1999) w / Tamango and Daniel Moreno
  • Recorded live at the Spoletto Festival, Italy