Thursday, May 17, 2018

We gon' dance now: Hank Smith's "Story of Tap" turns 20

Hank Smith, host of The Story of Tap,
remembered the late Sammy Davis, Jr.
patting his shins, before rising from his chair,
and telling them, "We gon' dance now."
(photo: Charles Dennis)

I felt myself smiling nearly all the way through dancer Hank Smith's program last night at Dixon Place--The Story of Tap: 20th Anniversary. Launched back in 1998 at the original Dixon Place with Marion Coles and James "Buster" Brown as Smith's first guests, the evening works a bit like a tv talk show...but better. Way better.

The better part is that it's all about tap and has the elfin Smith--dancer and so much more--as genial host. Better in that this edition had kickass tap stars Jason Samuels Smith and Derick Grant as guests along with Ayako Shirasaki, a jazz pianist whose playing is simply delicious. Better, too, because you're not home on your couch in front of a screen. You're just a few feet from the action, helplessly smiling.

The Story of Tap offers Smith a venue for humorously chatting up colleagues and idols about how they started and built their careers; who taught and mentored them; the grand inspirations--like Gregory Hines and Jimmy Slyde--they most miss; places where their skills were tested and honed; values that drive them to this day; issues that continue to intrigue them. Conversation, illustrated by archival photos and video clips, alternates with tap improvisations--astoundingly intricate or blistering solos with each dancer setting the bar higher and higher; playful face-offs; and, of course, the traditional shim sham ensemble with friends from the audience bringing it all to a close. Shirasaki was also granted her own solo at the keys during which every last one of us fell in love and awe.

I can't urge you to go to The Story of Tap: 20th Anniversary. That story has been told. But I hope Smith plans to bring tap's wonderful stories back to Dixon Place next year and the year after that and then some.

CLOSED. For information on upcoming Dixon Place events, click here.

Dixon Place
161A Chrystie Street (between Rivington and Delancey), Manhattan

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