Saturday, May 26, 2018

"Raising The Bar" at New York's Tap Family Reunion

Last night, Da Super Villainz (top) put on a show
to honor jazz, tap and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.
Photo: Courtesy of Billy Rose Theatre Division,
The New York Public Library Digital Collections 

Up in Harlem last night, the tap fam turned out for the signature event of the first annual Tap Family ReunionRaising The Bar--created by formidable tap stars Dormeshia Sumbry-EdwardsDerick K. Grant and Jason Samuels-Smith--celebrated National Tap Dance Day, birthday of ancestor Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Hosted Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the show was cookin' like the first barbecue of Memorial Day weekend. People, without exaggeration, this was one of the best and hottest shows of New York's jam-packed season. Following a brief introduction by the three co-conspirators--they do call themselves Da Super Villainz--and a blessing from renowned Debbie Allen, the evening took off with the warm, sumptuous jazz of Igmar Thomas's quartet.

Intergenerational by design, the show mixed solo turns by well-respected entertainers like tap guru Brenda BufalinoMaurice Chestnut (Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk) and Broadway's Karen Calloway-Williams with peppy ensemble numbers created for youngsters who brought refined training, charm and notable confidence. For this celebration of two American inventions--jazz and tap--the bar for rigorous thought and execution was raised especially high by Chicago's Star Dixon (M.A.D.D. Rhythms) and Nico Rubio (Tap Company 333). Bring us more from Chicago, please.

Grant, Sumbry-Edwards and Samuels-Smith never danced in the show. But I can tell you the two guys' resounding play-by-play and grunts of appreciation (and occasional disbelief) greatly enhanced my viewing experience. Presenters, take note: From now on, I always want to be seated directly in front of Grant and Samuels-Smith--and maybe not only for tap shows.

Featured performers: Antoinette Montague (vocals), Maurice Chestnut, Karen Calloway-Williams, Skip Cunningham, Nico Rubio, Star Dixon, Brenda Bufalino

Ensemble performers: Ciper Goings, Demi Remick, Destiny Delancy, Eric Decaminada, Jalen Saint Phifer, Jabu Graybeal, Maia Dumas, Naomi Funaki and Nakya Fenderson

Musicians: Igmar Thomas (Musical Director; trumpet); Jason Brown (drums); Zaccai Curtis (piano) and Luques Curtis (bass)

Upcoming Tap Family Reunion events include a day of classes today taught by tap greats at the Ailey Studios, a jam session at Swing 46 and much more. For the full schedule of events and ticketing details, click here.

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