His fingers do the quickstep along the neck of his fiddle.
His bow glides across the strings like a figure skater on ice.
In a classroom at Yukon College, the cheery melody of a Celtic jig dances through the air, and at its source is professional fiddler Daniel Lapp.
As he fiddles, Lapp’s foot creeps out of his shoe, midsong. Free of constraints, he taps barefoot to the beat.
Lapp is no stranger to the Yukon. He has been here at least a dozen times before.
“I’ve toured and played in festivals and clubs all over the world,” says Lapp with a giant grin.
Lapp first came to the Yukon in 1989 to perform as a member of a Vancouver band, Spirit of the West.
Although he does not remember the exact event in terms of name or venue, Lapp recalls the gig as some kind of pre-Frostbite Festival.
“It was a big dance in a gymnasium somewhere,” Lapp says.
Whatever it was, the compelling energy and enthusiasm of the Whitehorse crowd drew him back again and again, he says.
Throughout Lapp’s fiddling career he has performed with many different bands, orchestras, and ensembles.
It all started when he was just nine years old. Lapp’s “fiddling, farming, grandfather” taught him his very first fiddle tune, the Black Velvet Waltz.
However, during his adolescence Lapp’s fiddling was a seasonal occurrence because he would only take out his fiddle in the summer when he saw his grandpa.
And fiddling was still not his primary focus when Lapp headed to Toronto to attend Humber College in 1985.
“I actually went to study jazz trumpet,” says Lapp.
He dropped out after a year of schooling and headed to Vancouver.
There, Lapp really got into his fiddling for the first time.
“I started gigging lots in Van with my trumpet and my fiddle,” he says.
People started to notice his fiddling around the city, and Lapp was asked repeatedly if he would consider teaching.
Inspired by his grandfather, Lapp decided to share his talent with the world, and began offering lessons in 1990.
His teaching career really took off in 1994, when he was asked to put a fiddling ensemble together for the Commonwealth Games in Victoria. Lapp formed the BC Fiddle Orchestra.
For many years, Lapp was the only fiddle teacher in Victoria, he says.
Ten years after his massive success at the Commonwealth Games, in the fall of 2004, Lapp opened his own music school, Daniel Lapp’s House of Music.
Running a business was a completely new thing to Lapp, but he enjoyed the rewarding and exhausting experience, he says.
He opened the doors to his school with 20 different violin and fiddle teachers on board.
On top of organizing and running the school, and accumulating more and more students on the island, he travelled to string and fiddle camps all over North America.
And in the last 10 years, he’s been to Whitehorse to teach at music and string camps four times.
Lapp agreed instantly to come again this year for the Yukon Summer Music Camp, he says.
“Maybe there is something about the North, (but) the local fiddling among the students seems the strongest I’ve ever seen it,” he says.
Lapp has seen his fair share of beginners and amateurs, but he speaks highly of the fiddling he has witnessed here in the Yukon.
“I am curious as to what’s going on here – why they’re so strong.”
But, Lapp says fiddling has really been gaining momentum all over the world in the last 20 years, both in numbers of fiddlers and listeners.
In fact, the album Apolkalypse Now, that Lapp recently recorded with his current band, Polkastra, is already breaking records.
Although the actual CD has not been released yet, the album has been available on iTunes for three weeks and has become a major hit, says Lapp.
It was a project he got himself into in New York earlier this year, when he decided to take a break from his music school.
He moved to New York for a few months and during his stay a bunch of brilliant classical musicians spontaneously decided they wanted to play the polka, so they asked Lapp to direct them.
He plays everything but classical, he says.
“I am always happy to share the polka experience,” he adds.
So the project escalated.
Polkastra will get its first chance to perform for all-new fans at its first live gig in New York City on September 14.
It seems, yet again, Lapp is having another breakthrough in his fiddling career.
“I’m re-engaging in practising,” he says. “And I’m really excited about it. Fiddling is joyous music. When I play, I try to wrap that joy around (the audience).”
Heidi Loos is a freelance writer living in Whitehorse.