Performing Arts: Dance
July 17, 2016
Way chill was the mood Tony Waag, MC/Film Editor/Executive Director of American Tap Dance Foundation (ATDF) set for their program at The Duke. It showered affection on the tap dancers of yore, and acknowledged through stills and clips eight New York institutions that presented tap dance through its evolution. Waag wore a straw hat that manifests his predilection for the period when dancers charmed us as much with how they set up and closed a phrase, as with their own enjoyment.

After Waag’s collage of period footage, Viennese born Max Pollak opened the show, shouting “Buster Brown, Ruby Keeler, Fred Astaire, Don Draper” and other dancers making us look for clues of their individual tap styles in his limpid, unaccompanied solo called “Body Percussion.”

With the exception of the style mash-up for Fascinatin' Rhythm, music by George and Ira Gershwin, with Waacker Richard James (too brief), Hip Hop floor spins by Rokafella (just long enough), body percussionists Lynn Schwab & Samara Seligsohn, the show held back on razzle dazzle. The flat frontal style, with the torso quiet, the head and arm movement minimal primed our ears to focus on the music of the feet. Easy does it seems to be Waag’s caveat. Let the audience consider an era before crazy fast and loud becomes our expectation from percussionists.

Caleb Teicher stepped in and out of sand for a respectful, reserved solo in tribute to Sandman Sims. Melinda Sullivan sang Bye, Bye, Blues and then tapped with balletic grace. Members of the Tap City Youth Ensemble performed cheerfully a unison standard, originally choreographed by Gower Champion, adapted by Randy Skinner.

The best melding of media and live dance came with The Stair Dance/Doin’ the New Lowdown/ShimSham, solo and choreography by Leonardo Sandoval. A five-tierred, symmetrical stair provided the simple set for the dance set against a split screen (4 colored squares) of a film. Playing live occasionally was Jess Jurkovic on piano, Joe Fonda on bass, Josh Davis on drums.

Thank goodness we have so many of the tap masters, John Bubbles, Bojangles included, readily available on Youtube. Who could come close to catching their invention, variety, and spontaneity, their unforgettable personalities? Between live homages, teaching, and videos, the Tap Treasures are safe!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

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