For ballet or contemporary, ten dances in a one-hour performance would be unheard of. But tap is often all about the music, as in the Lady Hoofers’ spring program, with popular songs no more than a few minutes long. Some pieces were fun while I watched them, but others came home with me, making me smile as they replayed in my mind. And one thing became very clear: artistic director Kat Richter has taken her place on my short list of favorite choreographers. I’d be happy to see anything she did.
A new favorite
Her new number, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” opened the show with three Duke Ellington jazz standards: the title song, by Billy Strayhorn; Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood"; and Juan Tizol's “Perdido.” Dancers in the loose trousers and soft blouses of the ‘40s (costumes by Richter and Katie Budris) performed a series of solos, trios, and group dances, even breaking into a section of swing with five sets of partners performing back lifts. My favorite section was a series of call and response taps by sets of trios ranged across from each other on the dance floor. The piece felt a bit overlong in places, but parts of it, especially the group dancing to the “A Train,” would have felt right at home in a Busby Berkeley movie.
Richter’s “Booty Swing,” to the song of the same name by contemporary swing composer Parov Stelar, was the star turn of the program. The solo, performed by Sarah Vogan in black elbow-length gloves and a slinky green dress with an open back, slowed things down a little for a sultry dance that included a bit of flash—including a high kick. The classic taps picked up the slyly sexy mood, and the style and costume blended to create a kind of fantasy past. It was pretty much perfect and goes on my list of favorite tap dances.
A good time
Richter wasn’t the only choreographer from the company to shine. “A Little Party,” by former member Theresa DeSimone and the company, gave us just what the title promised—a good time—with music by Fergie, Q-Tip, and Goon Rock. The dancers, dressed in black and red in various styles, from long flowing pants to spangled short shorts, again took us into the past with strains of the Charleston, among other dance styles. “Improvisation,” to the music of Alice Merton and Nicolas Rebscher, was just that—one dancer would set a pattern while another dancer watched, then picked it up, elaborated on it, or set a new challenge for the company.
I was not so excited about Michele Donleavy’s “Past, Present, Future.” The program notes said it was an exploration of presence, and some sections, in which dancers seemed to gather on the stage facing each other in not quite a circle, left me wondering what I was supposed to take from it. I think it was an interesting effort to bring a contemporary dance sensibility to tap, but it felt a little out of place with the other pieces.
Two filmed dances were interesting, but seemed unnecessary in an afternoon of live tap that had run a bit longer than the advertised hour anyway. One could not fault the Lady Hoofers, however; they brought it whenever they hit the stage.
What, When, Where
On Tap. Choreography by Kat Richter, Becky Mastin, Michele Dunleavy, and others. The Lady Hoofers. May 4, 2019, at the Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine Street, Philadelphia. (215) 449-4060 or ladyhoofers.org.