Hollywood's Favorite Tap Duo, Kelsey McCowan and Caley Carr, Talk Dance Role Models and Embarrassing Moments Onstage
Tap duo Kelsey McCowan and Caley Carr have been blowing up Hollywood with their classic, sophisticated tap moves. McCowan recorded the tap sounds for the film La La Land, choreographed all of Derek Hough’s recent tap performances (one of which was nominated for an Emmy), and privately coached Bette Midler for her Tony Award–winning performance in Hello, Dolly! Recently, they’ve both been coaching actor Jeremy Piven of Entourage fame. McCowan and Carr first met on a dance gig. Six months later, they were officially dating; now, four years later, they’re about to get married—on the very stage they first performed on together. Read on for The Dirt!
What’s your favorite dance movie?
Kelsey: Singin’ in the Rain
Caley: Billy Elliot
What’s the most-played song on your playlist?
Kelsey: Right now, it’s “On The Sunny Side of the Street,” by Steve Tyrell.
Caley: “Tighten Up,” by Archie Bell & the Drells
Who’s your dance role model, and why?
Kelsey: Keone and Mari. I think they are two of the most gifted dancers/choreographers of our generation.
Caley: Bob Carroll. He always knew how to make people smile, on- and offstage.
What makes you nervous?
Kelsey: I’m a complete hypochondriac and always get nervous about activities I can get injured doing.
Caley: Kelsey getting injured doing activities.
What’s your advice for young performers?
Kelsey: Don’t “Dance like nobody is watching.” I say, “Dance like it’s your last time and EVERYONE is watching!”
Caley: Always have fun when you’re dancing. It’s my escape and my favorite way to explain how I’m feeling.
Have you had any embarrassing moments onstage?
Kelsey: During our Halloween show “Tapworx” at Universal Studios, I was supposed to transform into a vampire midway through. I had 15 seconds to put my two molded vampire teeth in. I couldn’t get one of the teeth to stick, so when I was unveiled, I had one tooth that fell out on the floor right in front of the audience.
Caley: Dancing in the 4th of July parade in Huntington Beach in a sailor suit. I was flipping off of this WW II–era Jeep and my pants ripped right in the crotch. I had to use a little American flag to cover myself.
What are your pet peeves?
Kelsey: When I hear people say “Tap dance is a dying art form.”
Caley: People showing me the couple tap steps they remember from when they were kids; all the while I’m performing.
If you could work with any choreographer, who would it be?
Kelsey: Gene Kelly, Hermes Pan, or Gregory Hines.
Caley: [arrow up to Kelsey’s answer]
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Caley: Kiss Kelsey!
Kelsey: [arrow up to Caley’s answer] He thinks he’s cute.
What’s the strangest thing in your dance bag?
Kelsey: A screwdriver
What’s one food you can’t live without?
Kelsey: My veggie pot pie.
Caley: [arrow up to Kelsey’s answer] Her veggie pot pie. So good!
What’s something no one knows about you?
Kelsey: I’ve been a vegetarian my entire life and have never eaten meat before.
Caley: My first name is John. So, my name is John Caley-Ryan Carr. I know, crazy town.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Kelsey: A dancer
Caley: An astronaut. Just like Tom Hanks.
What non-dance thing would you consider yourself an expert at?
Kelsey: I don’t know about “expert,” but I would say either makeup or doing vintage hairstyles.
Caley: Shaving…with my straight razor. Old-school barber style.
What dance item can you not live without?
Kelsey: Our mini tripod to film on our Iphones.
Caley: My foam roller. An every-night must!
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Kelsey: Pastries, chocolate, and anything breakfast-related.
Caley: Pastries, bowls of cereal, night surfing off Huntington Beach pier, PB&J’s, sugar, sugar, and more sugar.
Who’s your dance crush?
Kelsey: Hands down Gene Kelly.
Caley: Jason Janas…don’t tell Kelsey.
If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
Kelsey: To be able to read minds or go back in time.
Caley: Able to fly and able to breath underwater.
What performer would you drop everything to go see?
Kelsey: Anthony Morigerato.
Caley: Jared Grimes, Sam Weber, and every tapper who inspires me.
What’s your biggest fear?
Kelsey: Deep, murky water.
Caley: Spiders, people with sweaty hands, friends showing you videos they think are funny but aren’t.
What’s your go-to stress reliever?
Kelsey: Watching Bob Ross videos.
Caley: Getting in the ocean or jumping on my fixie (a track bike with no brakes).
Where do you feel happiest?
Kelsey: At home with my cats…and Caley.
Caley: In the studio/in the ocean.
What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?
Kelsey: I actually watch YouTube makeup tutorials. They’re very soothing and put me to sleep.
Caley: Kiss Kelsey!
What’s your most-watched TV show?
Kelsey: “Breaking Bad” or “House of Cards.”
Caley: I love my cartoons. “Family Guy,” “Simpsons,” “Futurama”—anything like that. I also have been loving “Game of Thrones.”
Who would play you in a movie?
Kelsey: Emilia Clarke from “Game of Thrones.”
Caley: Jeremy Piven…will need to get him a mustache.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Kelsey: I love cooking and secretly wish I owned a vegetarian restaurant.
Caley: I can knock down some cool flips/break-dance a bit.
Do you have any pets?
We have four pets—three cats named “Mommy,” “Alfie,” and “Little Miss.” We also have a betta fish named Finn. P.S. They’re all rescues! Even the betta!
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Caley: Nicaragua—I hear the surf has been super-good the last couple of days. After surf time, Sweeden.
Do you have any nicknames?
Kelsey: Kelser, Toots, Green Eyes
Caley: The name Caley for a guy doesn’t need a nickname.
What would you be if you weren’t a dancer?
Kelsey: A professional makeup artist.
Caley: Sad or a barber.
A version of this story appeared in the December 2017 issue of
Dance Spirit with the title “The Dirt with Kelsey McCowan & Caley Carr.”