Meet Rhythm the dolphin with tap dance shoes on his tails

DUNEDIN — Kayla Cowart, the Tap Girl of Florida, is creating quite a splash in Pinellas with her Dolphin “Rhythm”–the newest addition to Clearwater’s Dolphin Trail and the official mascot of the Florida Tap Dance Project.

Clearwater’s Dolphin Trail is a unique artistic initiative featuring a growing pod of more than 175 six-foot tall fiberglass dolphins, each individually designed by a local artist and sponsored by an area business.

Clearwater has always been an incredible location for dolphin watching. It is the place to meet America’s most famous dolphin:  Winter, the dolphin with no tail. And now it is also the place to encounter Rhythm, the dolphin with tap shoes for tails.

The Florida Tap Dance Project held its ribbon-cutting event Saturday, Sept. 15 after which Rhythm was unveiled in front of Patricia Ann Dance Studios on 941 Douglas Street in Dunedin, its permanent home.

More than 200 well-wishers gathered in attendance including Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, Pinellas County Commissioner and former Mayor of Dunedin Dave Eggers, Patricia Ann McNally, owner of Patricia Ann Dance Studios and daughter of the studio’s founder Elaine Forestier and the Tap Dance Ambassadors of Florida (Morgan Storrison, Ruth Ann Martin, Ashlyn Bolton and Aubrey Cheek).

Rhythm DolphinThe dolphin is sponsored by Cowart who has plans to create a Rhythm Tap Dance Trail within Clearwater’s Dolphin Trail. The trail will establish cultural landmarks in the local tap dance community as well as reflect some of the milestones in Cowart’s career path to an Off-Broadway performer.

The first dolphin was dedicated in honor of the late Ms. Elaine Forestier, who founded Patricia Ann Dance Studios more than 56 years ago. She was an avid tap dancer, and she loved to choreograph large production tap dance numbers using themes from some of the most endearing Broadway musicals.

Cowart, who also dedicated her inaugural Dunedin Tap Dance Festival in Forestier’s honor, said that Forestier nurtured her love for musical theater and fueled her passion for tap dance.

Befittingly, Rhythm is dressed for a night out on Broadway.  He looks like he was outfitted by an expert stylist, sporting a formal tuxedo with accent colors and accessories. The highlight of this handsome Dolphin is his attractive tap dance shoes retrofitted on his dolphin tail.

Rhythm’s artist is Robert Daltry, a self-employed artist and degreed illustrator that works in various mixed mediums. Daltry specializes in airbrush painting and is a well sought after artist for Clearwater’s Dolphin Trail.

“This is the first time, I have been asked to put shoes on one of these dolphins,” said Daltry, whose works includes a large share of dolphins on the trail, including dolphins that he airbrushed for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Philadelphia Phillis and the coast guard to name a few.

“I wanted Rhythm to stand out from the other dolphins on the Clearwater Dolphin Trail. That is one of the things that I love most about the Clearwater Dolphin Trail; the art displays unite our communities. It allows you to be imaginative and express yourself while being part of something that is bigger than you, something really beautiful,” asserted Cowart.

Home to Patricia Ann Dance Studios, Cowart spent most of her free time in Dunedin as a child. Voted the “Best Little Walking Town in America” by Walking Magazine, she felt right at home in the dance studio located in the quaint city with a hometown feel.

Unique in every aspect, Cowart believes that Rhythm will be right at home on Douglas located a stone throw away from the restaurants and shops on Main Street. From relaxing in Pioneer Park to enjoying the waterfront dining of the marina, she is thrilled that the first stop on the Rhythm Tap Dance Trail is located in the City of Dunedin’s vibrant downtown district.

Daltry said he feels privileged to be a part of the plans to expand the Rhythm Dolphin Tap Dance Trail in Pinellas County.

“I enjoyed bringing Kayla’s vision for Rhythm to life. I believe that he is one of the most animated dolphins on the Clearwater Dolphin Trail, and he is definitely the best dressed,” added Daltry.

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