Named one of the "25 to Watch in 2007" by Dance Magazine, Max Pollak was inspired by the virtuosic footwork displayed by many of the greats in American film, and most importantly, jazz music. A native of Austria who has lived in New York since 1991, he has been tapping since the age of eleven, and playing drums and percussion since the age of fourteen. From the beginning, he has focused on studying each discipline in depth in order to improve his understanding of the other. While completing his theater degree at the Theater-an-der-Wien Musical Theater School in Vienna, from 1988-1990, Pollak became an accomplished professional drummer and tap improviser. After working in several large musical theater productions in Germany and Austria, including one under the direction of Broadway choreographer Michael Shawn, he moved to New York City at the invitation of Heather Cornell, artistic director of the Bebop tap quartet Manhattan Tap.
During the early 1990s, the most important breeding ground for emerging tap talent was the weekly tap jam session hosted by tap legends Dr. Jimmy Slyde, Dr. Buster Brown, Chuck Green, and Lon Chaney at the New York City jazz club La Cave. Pollak was a regular, taken under the wing of the masters. For three years, he also co-hosted a weekly tap jam session at the East Village club Deanna's, together with his close friends Tamango of Urban Tap, Roxane Butterfly of Worldbeats, and saxophonist/composer Paul Carlon.
Pollak also furthered his musical studies in jazz at New York's prestigious New School, graduating in May 1995. Among his most inspiring teachers were the legendary jazz drummers Charlie Persip and Vernell Fournier, and the pianists Ted Rosenthal, Lee Musiker, and Phil Markovitz (music theory, arrangement). To develop his versatility as a dancer, Pollak studied ballet (Jan Miller), jazz dance (Daniel Tinazzi, Phil Black), theater dance (Robert Tucker, Chris Chadman), and diverse tap styles with recognized masters (Savion Glover, Bob Audy, Lesley Lockery, Phil Black).
It was Latin percussion master Bobby Sanabria, though, who introduced Pollak to the earth shattering power and spiritual depth of Afro-Cuban music. This experience turned out to be the defining influence in shaping Pollak's career.
Inspired by playing in Sanabria's Afro-Cuban big band and by New York City's vibrant Latino music community, Pollak soon began incorporating elements of Afro-Cuban jazz and folkloric music in his performances, developing the concept he calls "RumbaTap", a melding of Afro-Cuban music and dance, American jazz, body percussion, and tap dance. For four years, he studied Afro-Cuban percussion at the Harbor Conservatory in New York with some of the best drummers in Latin Music (Johnny Almendra, Jimmy Delgado). Pollak soon distinguished himself on the international tap scene as an innovative soloist and educator.
Pollak was chosen as a soloist for the show Super Son Cubano in 1999 which featured some of Cuba's most important Salsa musicians: Juan Pablo Torres, Jose Fajardo, Malena Burke, and Israel Miranda. The concert was filmed and turned into the critically acclaimed documentary Como Se Forma Una Rumba in 2001. Teaching tap in Cuba frequently since 1998, Pollak has been embraced by the leading Cuban folkloric group of its day, the legendary Los Muñequitos de Matanzas. He has frequently appeared with them as a featured performer and has taught tap to their lead dancer Barbaro Ramos. Today, Los Muñequitos feature the "RumbaTap" style in all of their current performances, notably on their recent performance DVD Live in L.A. 2003.
RumbaTap - the music/dance ensemble Max Pollak created and named after his unique body percussion/tap concept, premiered at El Taller Latino in Manhattan on August 8th, 1999 featuring Bobby Sanabria, Cuban Rumba legend Barbaro Ramos, and Paul Carlon's Latin jazz quartet Grupo Los Santos. Evolving over the following years, RumbaTap now evokes a powerful Latin "Orquesta" including marimba, saxophone trio, vocalists and an explosive percussion section led by six tap dancers. RumbaTap has toured throughout Europe, Japan, and the United States, most recently performing with DanceBrazil to a capacity crowd at New York City's Central Park Summer Stage.
Today Pollak is recognized worldwide as the creator of "RumbaTap." So respected is Pollak for this concept that his performances, teaching schedule, university lectures, and residencies take him throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, Central and South America. Max Pollak is the 2008 recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Choreography.