Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My recent tap excursions

Well, it's been an interesting few weeks gone by with tap, ending this last weekend with "Tap It Out", the close out event of Tap City: The New York City Tap Festival.  So, let me start by going backwards and begin my little coverage of these events with last Saturday

Saturday, July 13th
Andrew Nemr, co-founder of the Tap Legacy Foundation and Artistic Director of the tap group
Andrew Nemr, with
 Craig & Susanne Sparks dancing
CPD/Plus, performed 3 sets between 12 pm and 3 pm with a trio of musicians at Ritz Plaza Park  on 48th St.  I caught the first set which was a nice blend of taps and music.  The environment of the small
tucked away park and the gentle breeze of a summer day made for a relaxing scene.  It was truly a music event with Andrew as the fourth musician on taps.  In fact, it was billed as the Andrew Nemr Quartet.  A little swing thing got going at one moment and a couple came out on the "floor" to do some swing dancing as the music played.  At the end of the set I headed to my next outdoor tap event, that was near by.

Tony Waag and dancers
Tap City is the annual New York City Tap Festival produced by Tony Waag and the American Tap Dance Foundation.  The festival runs for about a week with classes and events culminating with "Tap It Out" in Times Square where a bunch of dancers (who had been rehearsing and learning their moves all week long) tapped outside led by Mr. Waag.  It was fun seeing the faces of people of all ages and skills smiling, and sweating, as they did a couple of a cappella routines to Tony's conducting.  It was enjoyable to see something that was not about virtuosic performance but rather about people having a good time, whether dancing or watching.  All those people can say they literally danced on Broadway!

Wednesday, July 10th
I have written before about the weekly tap jam run by Michela Marino Lerman at Small's Jazz Club on 10th St. in Greenwich Village.  This was the fourth anniversary of the jam and the place was packed, probably because of the fact of Tap City going on, so many tappers were in town to drop by.  It was so crowded that I decided not to dance and just hang back to watch and take in all the action.  As I sat in the back I also used the time to catch up a bit with Michela's parents, Jim and Terry, two people who love good music, love tap and continue to support their daughter's creative endeavors.  She is continuing the legacy set down by Buster Brown years ago and as I watched the evening move along, for the short time I was there, I reflected on first meeting her and her parents when she was 11 and seeing her now at 27, with many possibilities still ahead, I wonder where her journey will take her.  It's a thought I have about a lot of the younger dancers out there today.

Tuesday, July 9th
Speaking of Michela, I had seen her the night before at the awards ceremony that was part of Tap City. Awards were given to Sally Sommers, Barbara Duffy and Dean Diggins.  Awards were also posthumously to Paul Draper, Ernie Smith and James "Buster" Brown.  I had the honor of presenting Buster's Tap Dance Hall of Fame Award, which Michela accepted on behalf of Buster's family.  I am always learning more and more about people in the world of tap and never knew of Dean Diggins before.  It was interesting to learn of his background and relation to Paul Draper, whose Hall of Fame Award he accepted, in addition to getting his own award.  There were dance numbers and video clips for the other honorees, which at times I felt went on longer than necessary, but overall was a pleasant evening that brought a lot of people together.  But I have to say this, when you're giving a acceptance or presentational speech in an evening where a number of people who are going to talk...get to the point and keep it short!  These things can too easily drag on and because counterproductive in the effect it has on an audience.  Okay, I've spoken my piece....it's the stage manager in me.

Wednesday, June 26th
What can you say about Savion Glover?  I'm really not comfortable in calling someone a genius or the very best in their field, but suffice it to say Savion stays on point and does what he does his way and
keeps at it ...his way.  His show "STePz" at The Joyce was just outstanding and the tightest of all of the shows I have seen him do at that venue over the years.  He was joined by Marshall Davis, Jr. and three stellar woman dancers, Ayodele Casel, Sarah Savelli and Robin Watson.  All the numbers were done to recorded music and it covered a range of genres and time periods from Miles Davis to "Mission Impossible" to Stevie Wonder to classical music.  Savion and Marshall had their moments together that showed a partnership and kinship on stage that I don't often see.  It was particularly evident when they each danced on a separate set of stairs placed on the two sides of the stage.  At times they were in tandem with each other on each set of stairs and at other times they sort of challenged each other back and forth, doing some moves up and down those steps that were unbelievable.  But the moment that got me the most was Savion's solo to Sammy Davis, Jr's recording of "Mr. Bojangles".  He just covered the stage with steps and memories and references to dancers past that many of us knew.  I couldn't help thinking about Sammy, Gregory, Jimmy, Buster and Harold as I looked at the stage.  What also was evident through the evening were other references to dancers who have passed on, through steps and vocal riffs some of the dancers did on stage.  Ayodele, Sarah and Robin each had moments to "show their stuff" and it was nice to see the uniqueness of each shine.  I had one of those $10 seats in the first row, which I like because I may not see the whole stage (when they went upstage I didn't see the upstage stairs at first that some danced on), but I could see their faces up close and see all the little interactions they all did with each other.  There were moments when Savion would pass someone and slide his hand behind his back to slip another dancer "5" as they passed.  When some dancers were not in a number, there were times when they would still be on stage to the side checking out what was happening while quickly adjusting their outfits.  I could see and feel the community that was on that stage and it felt good.  They all seemed to be having a good time and had each others "back".  I came away inspired.  A friend of mine who saw the show said she couldn't stop smiling for a while after the show was over.  It was genuine.  If you missed it, you have a chance to see it again this November.  The show will be at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College on November 2, 2013 (http://www.brooklyncenteronline.org/)...GO!!

Post  June 26th "STePz" show  hang in the lobby of the Joyce.

What I missed
Because of the heat, I didn't get to Laraine Goodman's "Tap and Roll" out door tap jam on July 6th, I didn't see Ryan Casey's show, "Transitions", also on July 6th and I didn't get to see "Michela and Friends" at the Harlem Meer on July 7th.  Can't make 'em all, but one can try!

All photos by Hank Smith