July 24, 2017
Billed as “A musical celebration of a man’s life and his music," the New York City Tap Festival, a project of The American Tap Dance Foundation celebrated Tap Ellington at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. The Duke Ellington Center Big Band and an array of extraordinary percussive dance artists welcomed the community of dance and music lovers to the concert site delimited by a wooden platform and an Indigo Mood lighting bathing the band against the glass wall background with the foggy view of Central Park’s Columbus Circle corner surrounded by city lights.
The evening opened with Caravan interpreted by the exquisite band led by Eli Yamin at the Grand Piano: Steve Little (Drums), Cole Davis (Bass), James Zollar (Trumpet), Michael Rorby (Trombone), Jason Curry (Alto Saxophone/Clarinet), Jessica Jones (Tenor Saxophone), and Claire Daly (Baritone Saxophone). Ayodele Casel’s carefree a cappella singing tap proceeded with her choreographic interpretation of Fleurette Africaine.
Acknowledging the curating collaboration of leading dance historian in Jazz Tap dancing, Constance Valis Hill, Master of Ceremonies Tony Waag delighted the audience with the comic twist of his vocal performance of I’m Just a Lucky So and So. Caleb Teicher and Sarah Reich brought an endearing theatrical narrative to Black Beauty followed by Lisa La Touche Ensemble with a nonchalant sextet interlacing rhythmic games within soft-shoe themes to Ellington’s So.
Sweeping the stage with gales from shows of the WWII era, Joseph and Josette Wiggan left no spot untouched dancing to Dr. Ellington’s Ko Ko. Josette whirled through rampant turns en manège. In contrast, Joseph's leisurely style winked at Jimmy Slyde with some additional signature accents like the fedora hat tricks.
Mercedes Ellington, Duke Ellington's granddaughter, joined Mr. Waag and led the audience in a participatory, finger snapping game to her grandfather’s delightful Dancers in Love. Giving way to original Ellington’s band drummer, Mr. Steve Little magically transported the musical quality of tap dancing to his art form caressing his drums with his brushes in Tap Dancer’s Blues. Musical intimacy was further elevated by Sam Weber who mesmerized the house with his fizzy concert tap virtuoso performance of Money Jungle.
Artistic refinement, and synergy with the band kept the audience in the sole of Brenda Bufalino’s taps. Co-founder of the American Tap Dance Foundation, the dazzling octogenarian tap master, brought the audience to their feet with her masterful four-section theme and variations to a Lush Life Medley. The program closed with the New American Tap Dance Orchestra ensemble’s elegant choreography by Bufalino to Rockin’ in Rhythm, joined by the whole cast in a Shim Sham grand finale.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Gabriela Estrada