Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Play the floor: ATDF's "Rhythm in Motion"

Well, Tony Waag did say that American Tap Dance Foundation's spring series, Rhythm in Motion--at least, Program A of it--would be edgy. And edgy, it was. Also, the rest of what he said: "hopeful, passionate, experimental, lovely...."

"[Tap dancing] can take us somewhere we don't expect," he said. "It's no longer nostal-gyah--though we do love that."
ATDF's Tony Waag at Tap It Out 2012
(c)2012, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
At the modest Theater at the 14th Street Y, the first performance of Program A opened with a clever behind-the-scenes film by Waag, featuring a montage of breathless, high-powered tapping overlaid with "Synchronicity" by The Police. That led to an hour or more of all-the-way live tap designed with 21st Century tastes in mind--works by Nicholas YoungMichelle DorranceChloe ArnoldJason Samuels SmithLisa La Touche and Derick K. Grant, each making a case for tap's continued relevance as hardcore skill and art.

You might mistake Young, a tall, strapping Texan, for a country-western star, but he's a tapper through and through and, as shown here, an emerging choreographer of growing confidence. Thank you Forest, dedicated to the sound technology inventor, employs an array of tap surfaces wired for sound as he and an all-women crew--Elizabeth Burke, Michela Marino Lerman, Carson Murphy, Demi Remick and Samara Seligsohn--fire up the feet to play the floor with impressive accuracy, speed, force and assertive design.

Dorrance's bluesy improvisatory solo with guitarist Darwin Deez, Deez and Deez, is pure magic in all the little framed moments of wonder. The dancer holding firm as she drags the silver blade of her heel against the floor; catching the guitar's spare lines of sound at odd angles and whipping her lines all around and around them; pulsing waves of movement through the length of her lanky body; dazzling us with her killer feet then looking straight at the guitarist as if to say, "What you got now?" As an ensemble choreographer and director, too, she's the genuine article, able to transfer what's great about her personal style--loose, earthy, full-bodied insouciance--onto others with no artificial aftertaste. Last night's superb cast of She's Alright included Burke, Murphy, Remick, Young, Megan Bartula and Caleb Teicher, and you can tell she has inspired them.

Arnold's two pieces for her exuberant troupe Apt 33 emphasized hard-charging, tight arrangements to popular urban music ("So Fine" by Jamaican reggae star Sean Paul and "Not Afraid" by Eminem). Samuels Smith's solo + ensemble, Acasmellyah--its title, a tapper's play on the word acapella--is so masterfully sharp, finely complex, roaring in sound and mesmeric in effect that it's hard to believe that Rhythm in Motion wouldn't just stop there and let us stagger home.
Derick K. Grant
(c)2012, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
But there was more to come. La Touche with musical collaborator/dancer Sean Jackson and fellow dancers Brittany DeStefano and Karissa Royster brought We Used to Hold, partly set to an Erykah Badu song, innovative in staging and sound and with occasional subtlety and sexiness. Grant's Buzzcut Season, using the Lorde song, scatters a roiling mess of dancers in school uniforms around the space. Now and again, the galloping, spinning crowd briefly, ingeniously parts to throw focus on one or a few of its members in a floating narrative of high school life and love.

Program B will include works by Gregory Hines (staged by Barbara Duffy), Brenda Bufalino, Cartier Williams, Michela Marino Lerman, Max PollakSusan Hebach, and the capoeira-inspired Fuga by Felipe Galganni.

Rhythm in Motion continues through Saturday. Remaining shows include tonight (Program A at 7pm and 9:30pm), Thursday (Program A at 7pm), Thursday (Program B at 9:30pm), Friday (Program B at 7pm and 9:30pm) and Saturday (Program B at 3pm with a Tap Talk Back and 7pm).

For Rhythm in Motion tickets, click here.

For information on Sunday's Celebrating Gregory! fundraiser with guest host Bill Irwin, click here.

The Theater at 14th Street Y
344 East 14th Street (at 1st Avenue), Manhattan

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