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In the News > Dance Review: Thrills Onstage and Off As Youngsters Step Out

5 Mar 2002

DANCE REVIEW; Thrills Onstage and Off As Youngsters Step Out By JENNIFER DUNNING Published: March 5, 2002 Tap is alive and well. That was the message of ''21 Below,'' a program on Friday night at Town Hall by 11 dancers and groups of performers under 21 years old, put together by the New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Day. Part of the fun was the large and vociferous audience, which shouted out encouragement to the young dancers and to Jennifer Holliday, the evening's gracious host. The indispensable Frank Owens Trio was also on hand to accompany the dancers and perform on its own with typically easygoing, crisp grace. The level of technical skill was high. The virtuoso style of Savion Glover was an obvious influence on most of the performers. But several stood out for the personal style they brought to their dancing. The Young Hoofers (Jared Grimes, Lance Liles, Calvin Booker and Sheldon Gordon) were as thrilling as ever, working together as a dynamic quartet composed of individual stylists whose solos recalled the days when no performer looked like any other on a tap bill. Robyn Watson, a 16-year-old from Philadelphia, is a big, gangling dancer who towers over her quick, precise feet. She moves as if in a trance, her face and hands working as if they had lives of their own. Ms. Watson is clearly someone to watch for in the future. Jason Samuels-Smith trained in part with Mr. Glover, but his disengaged, almost wry presence adds a lightness and sophistication to Mr. Glover's inward-focused hard-driving style. His improvisational duet with Ms. Holliday, performed to Fats Waller's ''Honeysuckle Rose,'' was a playful delight that built excitingly to its climax. And Mario Medina stood out for his sultry mysteriousness in a Latin-flavored solo. The roster of fine dancers also included Cartier Williams, Devin Arroyo, Shakir Torbert, Hannah Leah Dunn, Frankie Clemente, Dustin Conley and Michela Marino Lerman. The young dancers also paid tribute to the veteran tap star Buster Brown.

Jennifer Dunning