Tap Extravaganza 2002 - dance review
6 Sep 2002
Tappers gather for rewards, remembrance. - Tap Extravaganza 2002 - dance review
Dance Magazine, Sept, 2002 by Gus Solomons, Jr
Tap Extravaganza 2002 The Town Hall New York, New York May 26, 2002
Tap-dancing wunderkind Savion Glover hosted the four-hour love-fest that was the fifteenth annual tribute to tap, America's folk dance. The extravaganza, produced by the New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day, presents the Flo-Bert Awards--named for Florence Mills and Bert Williams, Broadway veterans of the 1920s--to tap-dance luminaries. This year's honorees were dancer/producer/ writer/comedienne Jane Goldberg and pianist/arranger/composer Frank Owens.
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An opening remembrance of Richard Rodgers's centenary, played by Owens and his trio, contained several Cole Porter tunes, but no matter. The dancing kicked off with six fellows in tuxedos--The New Jersey Tap Ensemble--headed by ultra-glamorous Karen Calloway Williams in white tails. Then, Avi Miller and Ofer Ben, The Israeli Hoofers, proved that Jewish white guys could tap--to "Hava Nagila" and the hora.
Nine of Goldberg's tapping colleagues, the Sole Sisters, recounted her crusades to balance the gender gap in a male-dominated tap world, as well as to highlight the achievements of octogenarian black tap masters, who were still alive and teaching. The evening was dedicated to the memory of one such master, the recently deceased, 89-year-old James "Buster" Brown, who'd been scheduled to appear.
To everyone's surprise, Gregory Hines showed up to recall his tumultuous relationship with Goldberg, including their frolicking on a nude beach and her criticizing him--with typically fearless honesty--on an otherwise triumphant performance, for "repeating himself, not doing anything new."
The second half led off with 20-something Reggio the Hoofer and his partner, tiny, 80-something Ernest "Brownie" Brown, who tapped sitting in chairs. Omar Edwards tapped in bare feet before donning shoes and doing the proverbial "challenge routine" with hip-hop tapper Jason Samuels Smith, topping each other in barrages of percussive virtuosity.
Snake-hipped Mable Lee, who toured with Cab Calloway's band and danced in the classic black Broadway musical Shuffle Along, did a sizzling, eat-your-heart-out-Peggy-Lee rendition of "Fever." Another unexpected guest, Jimmy Slyde, wowed the crowd with his slippery sliding tap style, still distinctive and technically impressive at his advanced age.
Frank Owens, who'd spent the evening accompanying the show, was honored next. Song stylist Jeree Wade and dancer/choreographer Ty Stephens did a few numbers from Owens's long running Off-Broadway musical Shades of Harlem before jazz producer Nobuko "Cobi" Narita presented him with the Flo-Bert plaque for longtime dedication to tappers.
Finally, Glover slipped on his magic shoes and enraptured us with his speed, clarity, and polyrhythmic complexity that have revolutionized the art of tap dancing. The finale featured solo turns by some of Glover's student devotees, young and old, and a joyous shim-sham dance by the entire cast. The stagehands itched to turn off the lights and evict us, as the audience cheered for more.
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COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group
Gus Solomons, Jr