5 Oct 2006
Dance Magazine, Oct, 2006 by Constance Valis Hill
Imagine Tap! July 11-August 6, 2006 Harris Theatre for Music and Dance, Chicago, IL
Imagine Tap!, with its cast of blues-gospel-pop singers and 18 of the freshest rhythm tap and break dancers on the planet, is a surreal, acid-induced tap dance dream. Choreographer-director Derick K. Grant, with co-creator Aaron Tolson and musical director Zane Mark, envision tap as a movie musical come-tolife, stars raising glistening gowns and tuxedo pants to hoof you into oblivion. Tap dance ("Echoes") is a heaven of harmonizing voices, chattering feet and a black Jesus (Grant) whose stuttering rhythms resurrect him into white light. Tap dance in "Three Chefs" is the buck-and-wing fervor of love-struck boys (Jared Grimes, Jumaane Taylor and Joseph Wiggan) in white jackets and puff-pastry chef hats, strutting, slinking, falling head-over-heels in flips, splits, and somersaults for diva Vanessa Jones, mouthing lyrics with lips, mooching with hips. Tap dance is a (tour de) force. In "The Doll," set in a toy store where a pretty-in-pink girl-doll is admired but never bought, Ayodele Gasel battles an army of he-men (toting neon-plastic machine guns) in her Mary-Janes, turning waltz-clog steps into a barrage of bullets.
Ray Hesselink's tooth-grinning don't-rain-on-my-parade smile ("Mr. Happy") radiates with sprightly time steps and easy-going slides to cheer up a sad Superman (Tolson). The red-hot rage of Jason Samuels Smith's taps ("Samurai Shuffle") incinerates all enemies. Pure fun. But the spread-the-word news about Imagine Tap! is that Grant expands tap from a virtuosie solo form into group choreography, designing eye-catching movement patterns for a kick-ass chorus (Chloe Arnold, Michelle Dorrance, and Jason Janas are standouts) that focus attention on rhythmically brilliant feet. "Somebody give the Lord a hand," the twinkled-toed-preacher Martin Tre' Dumas III implores his foot-stomping congregation in "Dance Like David," coaxing non-believer Brill Barrett to "catch the spirit" with flapping feet. Somebody do the same for Grant, who has dared to imagine myriad expressions for tap dance. What do you call a tap musical that turns a junior high classroom into a rocking house party ("Detention"), drops a two-bar soft-shoe break down to the floor ("Hip Hop A-Tea For Two"), and vents a woman's blues (Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards, "Subway Heat") on a hot summer day? Dream on it.
Constance Valis Hill
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Constance Valis Hill