4 Aug 2011
photo by Kristie Kahns
Like last weekend’s Red Bull BC One breaking competition at the Aragon, “Beat-Niks,” the first of three showcases closing out this year’s Rhythm World tap summit, showed an American art form evolving, thriving and in full swing.
Nico Rubio, a former Rhythm World scholarship student, directed the evening of 16 shorts, focused on up-and-comers in the field. “It’s the turning of a generational page,” said Lane Alexander, who, like Rubio, favored white shoes in his twenties and transitioned from just tap-dancing to curating, programming and teaching. (Rubio studies performing arts management at Columbia College Chicago.)
Rubio, who wears his hair nearly Beethoven-sized, casually emceed to the packed house at the MCA Stage, in addition to performing himself. Jus’LisTeN, the quartet named around each member’s first initial (Jessica Chapuis, Lisa La Touche, “Tre” Dumas and Nico Rubio), kicked off the evening to a medley of songs by A Tribe Called Quest including a smoove take on “Bonita Applebum.” There were no lyrics but, at times, the four quoted the rhythms of the original songs’ raps, a nice touch.
This was followed by a solo inspired by Coltrane’s “On Green Dolphin Street,” danced by the incomparable Jason Samuels Smith, who emerged from the wings in darkness, saying, “I ain’t twenty-something…not no more.” His stop-time cadenza was unbelievably rich, his tapping a warm mix of virtuosity and subtle play.
BlankSlate Films’ mini-doc about Chapuis, Live to Dance, was screened (it won the festival’s Virtual Rhythms videography contest), and a quintet from Florianópolis, São José dos Campos, Brazil performed its winner of Virtual Rhythms’ choreography contest, Just Fun, to Alicia Keys.
A chorus of young, female oohs and aahs welcomed the Bieber-esque Daniel Borak, from Switzerland, to the stage, who performed a slick, stellar solo to Prince and Maceo Parker’s “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold.” He was followed by an army of young women from East Chatham’s Mayfair Dance Academy in a step routine by Jakari Sherman, artistic director of Washington, D.C. group Step Afrika!
Act two began with another Rubio-choreographed project, All Elements, performed by Sour Apples Crew, a surprisingly cohesive collaboration between DJ Jam One, beatboxer Doc Red, Rubio and five B-boys and B-girls. Michelle Dorrance and Mishay Petronelli followed with a duet, Two to One, that also exceeded expectations. In echo and in counterpoint, side-by-side, the two women danced to Aphex Twin wearing short, black bandage dresses, Dorrance in tap shoes and Petronelli barefoot. Dorrance followed with a solo sung-and-danced interpretation of Radiohead’s 15 Step, played live by the night’s onstage combo: Charlie Coffeen, Christopher McBride, Garrett McGinn, Juan Mojica, Michael Piolet and Sam Trump.
The most conventional presentation came from five immensely talented, very young members of the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble, dancing to “Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing).” They were followed by older NCYTE dancers in a killer, skating, off-balance number choreographed by Jason Janas to “Do Your ’Ting,” by Joseph Webb (himself a tapper).
Shields & Knights, a tap duo comprised of well-known Canadian talents Travis Knights and Matthew Shields, brought their Blue Skies, a playful, High Noon standoff quoting “Ready or Not” by the Fugees and winning through the pair’s excellent dialogue with each other’s rhythms and volume. (Knights in particular can tap incredibly loud.)
Eleven dancers representing Northwest Tap Connection, from Seattle, danced to OutKast’s “Love In War” before Starinah “Star” Dixon took the stage for a final, transfixing solo inspired by Ella Fitzgerald’s “Lullaby of Birdland.” Rubio introduced Dixon, a Chicagoan who teaches with M.A.D.D. Rhythms, by calling her “one of the most slept-on tap dancers out there.” Wearing black and white polka dots and a face that volleyed between intense concentration and a wide, gleeful smile, she embodied the program’s ethos: Keep the art alive by working your ass off, because you love it.