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About Ryan

Baltimore County

Ryan Kenneth Johnson is a virtuosic performer, choreographer and artistic director of SOLE Defined. He is a well-known national and international performer who has been called “purely amazing” by Septime Weber, Artistic Director of The Washington Ballet. At the tender age of fourteen, Johnson started his professional journey in the arts by performing with greats such as Gregory Hines and Marvin Hamlisch. Johnson’s achievements include being cited for his... more

Kuku on Taps

Over the course of the year, I have continued to invest time and energy into this work. I've teamed up with the brillaince of Quynn Johnson and music powerhouse Tamar Greene. It's important to me that my work continues to mature in a way that crosses boarders, ethnic backrgound and bring joy to all who experience it. Quynn Johnson has the ablity to shift movement and rhythms that created a new dynamic to the exsisting work. Tamar Greene helped me flush out the vocal concept and as a team continue the forward progress of creating a "percussical". A percussive dance musical.

KuKu is a circle dance and drum rhythm with origins of West Africa, as a way to celebrate harvest and other celebratory events. Traditionally performed by women and only on two djembes, I wanted to recreate this powerful dance using men and women percussive dancers. In KuKu on taps we mash up tap dance, stepping, body percussion and vocal percussion. The three women represent mothers, wives and sisters while the men represent the two djembes. This cast of five perform a highly energetic percussive interpretation of the famed West African song while fussing other global rhythms.

As a percussive dancer, I’ve always been inspired by the musical likes of Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, and traditional music from countries such as Brazil, South Africa and Montreal. The relationship between music and dance allows for much creativity and Kuku on taps is a perfect example of that relationship. For me the performing arts allow people to express themselves and allow audience member to disconnect from their realities one performance at at time.

  • Original Score.JPG

    I teamed up with vocal powerhouse Tamar Greene, a friend and world renowned performing artist. Tamar holds his M.M from the Eastman School of Music in Vocal Performance and Literature, he also holds a B.A in music with a focus in Piano Performance. When I approached Tamar, I knew I had an idea however I didn't know how to "chart it". Well Tamar did! We spent hours doing research, including interviews with people from the west coast of Africa to insure we upheld the true traditions of the song while adding our contemporary approach.
  • Kuku on Taps.jpg

    Kuku on Taps is performed by seven artist. Two primary vocalist, three tap dancers/vocalist and two steppers/vocalist. Photo by: Craig Foster
  • Kuku on Taps at The Lincoln Center

    Ryan Johnson and Quynn Johnson fuse percussive dance with a mind blowing arrangement by Tamar Greene, bringing global rhythms to the stage using tap dance and body percussion.

Old School

For years I've watched tap dancers and jazz musicians share the stage from the Nicolas Brothers and Cab Callow to Winton Marsalis and Jared Grimes. At the tender age of 14 years old I had the honor to perform next to classical composer Marvin Hamlisch with the BSO and it opened my eyes to the many possibilities of my art. While touring with Step Afrika! I was exposed to New Orleans Brass music, I knew they was a space for a fusion to be born with tap dance. After years of listening to bands such as Rebirth Brass Band, and Hot 8 Brass Band along many visits to NOLA I wanted to create a funky fresh fusion of art.

I remember sitting in the French Quarter, watching brass bands play, people second lining and young kids tap dancing with bottle tops on their shoes. It knew this was a great relationship and Old School was born. New Orleans Brass music meets tap dance and multimedia to take the audience on an excited ride of music, movement, and African America history.

Human Drum

As a kid I was always told to use my words, however I always felt misunderstood when I spoke. I wasn’t the strongest reader due to my dyslexia, I became very quiet, until I was introduced to tap dance. Tap Dance became my way of communicating without verbally saying a word. I could express my emotions in a positive manner and it gave me an outlet to deal with my many frustrations. Tap Dance then lead me to Stepping and Body Percussion.

In the human drum, I fuse three percussive dance forms that I love along with nonverbal acting to hopefully bring joy to the audience members. The human drum solo allows me to interact with the audience and turn them into my own percussive band as I conduct them to creating a musical experience. The human drum is fun, rhythmic and an overall good time!

Raw Soundz

We see dance as movement, yet for me its so much more! It's rhythm, it's music, it's my heartbeat. I hear music in everything I do, from walking to cooking. I've always been told to be different and to step outside of my comfort zone. It was time to explore new ways to express my emotions and passion. So, I started creating songs, using different languages and rhythms I experienced over the years. Pushing my limits, explore new possibilities and collaborating with other artist, I'm working on a body music CD. This is an example of a track on my up and coming CD titled Raw Soundz, enjoy!

The Heartbeat

The Heartbeat is the second track to my percussive dance album. The driving force behind all of my work is love, I love to dance and create music. It has become an outlet but more importantly a tool to bring positive change to communities around the globe. When I wrote The Heartbeat, it was my way of answering the question "where do you get all these rhythms from?". That answer is simple, it comes from my heart, it's apart of my spiritual makeup. Percussive dance is a safe place for me to explore, express and devolpe my abality to communicate emotions that sometimes words cant justify. After recording this track, I was given the oppertunity to bring it to life past the recording and move it to screen. My original score turned to dance was turned into a soundtrack for a commercial, slated to air in the next few months.

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