Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tap City Awards 2012

Well, last Friday ended the six days of events and classes of the NewYork Tap Festival, better known as Tap City.  Last Wednesday was the festival's 2012 Awards Ceremony held in the Bruno Walter Auditorium of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.  Each year people are honored who have made important contributions to the art of tap dance and, since the ceremony was not held last year, Wednesday's event presented awards for 2011 and 2012.  I was honored to be one of the presenters.

It was a nice, warm evening (I'm not talking about the weather, which thankfully was not real hot, but
Max Pollak and RumbaTap performing
the "vibe" of the show) with a full house and heart felt presentations.  I presented the 2011 Tap Preservation Award to my good friend Jacqui Malone, who is a writer and professor and just all around good person.  Before I spoke, two of her former students surprised her with a performance that  combined tap and African Dance, which totally was a surprise for Jacqui!  All the other awardees had performances to honor them before they got their awards.  The other awardees were;  2012 Tap Preservation Award -  Cobi Narita,  2011/2012 Hoofer Awards -  Max Pollak/Jason Samuels Smith,  2011/2012 International Tap Dance Hall of Fame -  Cholly Atkins/The Whitman Sisters Legacy, and 2011/2012 Toe Knee Awards -  Stephanie Waag Blackman & Cindy Roush/Thelma Goldberg.

Dianne Walker, Jacqui Malone Sally Sommers after the show
Constance Valis Hill, Sally Sommers and Jacqui all talked about Cholly Atkins.  Margaret Morrison gave a presentation on The Whitman Sisters.  Michela Marino Lerman danced to vocals by Baano for Cobi Narita.  Tony talked about the specialness of Stephanie, Cindy and Thelma.  Max actually danced with his group RumbaTap in a new work and then a member of that group, Chikako Iwahori, talked about Max.  Chloe Arnold, Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia hit the floor for Jason before each shared their feelings about him.  All awardees had genuine emotion in their acceptance speeches and Jason ended the evening talking about the importance of advancing the tap art form.

The audience had a bunch of heavy weights, too.  Harold Cromer, Brenda Bufalino. Susan Goldbetter, Megan Haungs, Dianne Walker, Al Heyward, Ann Kilkelly and more.  It was just good to be there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Chasing The Bird"

I checked out Jason Samuels Smith's homage to Charlie Parker, Chasing The Bird at The Joyce Theater last Friday evening.  The show was in three parts;  "Imagine" with Jason doing extended solos, then Michelle Dorrance, Chloe Arnold and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards doing dancing excerpts from Jason's 2009 piece "Charlie's Angels" and finally Baakari Wilder, Zakiya Young and Frank Harts joining them for "Chasing The Bird" with dance, song and text.  It's the last segment that appears to be the beginning of a longer piece.  The whole evening was sort of a work in progress.

I enjoyed the evening and can see where it can be improved and developed.  I had a front row seat to the side (that's where the $10 tickets are!) with "partially obstructed view" which I didn't mind because, even though I would not be able to see the dancers' feet all the time (particularly the more upstage they got), I liked being up close to see the faces of dancers and get an interesting perspective on the show.   At one point, as Jason was really getting into it, I could see the sweat dripping of his face with a huge shadow of him cast to his side on the stage left wing curtains as his mom, Sue Samuels, watched the show off stage by those curtains.  I focused on the faces of Michelle, Chloe and Dormeshia as they watched each other and interacted in their segment.  All I could see of Theo Hill (musical director of the show) was his head moving enthusiastically as he played piano and conducted the band (Plume, Carlos Abadie, Ryan Berg and Kyle Poole).  When Baakari came out as the "Maestro" in the last segment of the evening, I spent a bit of time just watching him "oversee" the proceedings even when he was not performing or talking.  Because I know just about everyone in the show, having this more intimate view made me enjoy the show in a personal way.  It was nice seeing a bunch of talented people putting their full energy into something, executing it well and most importantly...being themselves on stage.

Jason is one of a group of tap dancers who are globally trying to stretch the boundaries of the art form by taking chances in their work.  I just find it frustrating that there are not as many opportunities for this to happen.  That a place like the Joyce has its one tap dance company of the season, but multiple modern companies.  Jason talked about this issue when he receive his Dance Magazine award a few years ago.

Anyway, the summer of tap continues at this moment with Tap City happening in NYC until this Friday.  In addition to the classes being held, yesterday was its "Copasetic Boat Ride", tomorrow awards will be given out (honorees include Jason, Max Pollak, Cobi Narita and Jacqui Malone), and Friday will the "Tap It Out" performances.  See the link to American Tap Dance Foundation in "Tap Related Websites" on the right for more Tap City details.

Here is a video about Jason's residency at the Joyce where he developed "Chasing The Bird"

Monday, July 2, 2012

Jason Samuels Smith

Starting tomorrow, Jason Samuels Smith begins a run at the Joyce Theater in NYC.  The main focus of his work will be working with the music of Charlie Parker.  He will be joined by some killer talent in the tap world and should not be missed.  Check out the interview with him from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle  and look at him doing some dancing with "Bird" from a few years ago.

Info for the Joyce Theater.  There are tickets for $10.00 available!