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Something old, something new
The Lady Hoofers present On Tap
The all-women tap dance troupe The Lady Hoofers brought something old and something new to the Independence Seaport Museum on Saturday night. In act one, the new was dance students from Muhlenberg and Rowan Universities and the company’s apprentices and the old included some historic tap routines. The performance opened with the apprentices dancing the 1930s classic BS Chorus. The dance is a primer of tap—rooted in the time step, with crossovers, buck and wing, and trench steps. Here, artistic director and choreographer Kat Echevarría Richter has restaged it to the Rebirth Brass Band’s version of Chuck Brown’s “(I Feel Like) Bustin' Loose.” The six dancers, in black tops and blue jeans, performed in unison with verve, filling the stage with their taps. It was easy to imagine them on Broadway, tapping out the production number to a 1930s musical.
Tapping into the feeling
For a complete change of pace, Charles Ives’s melancholy “Three Quarter Tone Pieces (1/3)” set the tone for Rowan dance students Tara Tucci and Gregory Williams’s touching and soul-baring Intrusivity. Williams entered with his hands over his downcast face, his taps reflecting his sorrow. Tucci joined him for a dance battle, and the title tells us that she represents the intrusive thoughts that drive depression. She seemed to be winning, but he vanquished her in the end. It was a mature bit of choreography and dancing, telling a story with gestures and music. I hope we see more of them.
In true Broadway style, act one ended with a grand finale as apprentices and university student guests joined together for Shim Sham Shimmy, another rousing dance with historic roots.
Act two was a special treat, with the cool jazz combo of Khary Abdul-Shaheed on drums, James Santangelo on keyboard, and Justin Sekelewski on bass playing old standards from the 1930s and 1940s on the side of the stage. Deonna Powell and Sarah Vogan, in short green dresses and elaborate hair pieces, brought the sizzle in Richter’s Too Darn Hot, set to Cole Porter’s song of the same name. There were a few glitches, but that couldn’t dampen the sexy vibe of the sultry taps and high kicks. It felt like watching a couple of chorus girls at the Coconut Grove in an old movie, and for a minute there I imagined the audience in slinky gowns and tuxedos hailing a cigarette girl for a light.
Act two ended with another grand finale, the company in loose trousers and blouses in a sophisticated performance of Richter’s Take the A Train. It was a favorite the last time I saw it and the live music elevated it to a new level. But before that, Improvisation, by associate director Tamera Dallam, Tucci, and Jenny Husta, was fabulous. I love dance battles when one dancer challenges another to repeat the ever-more-complex rhythm pattern of their taps, but when Dallam challenged Abdul-Shaheed on drums, the audience won.
New works and old favorites
Act three opened with the premiere of choreographer and managing director Katie Budris’s Stick Around, the most purely fun piece of the evening. Six dancers in brightly colored leggings and tops tapped out their rhythms with drumsticks on the floor, on each other’s drumsticks, and on the taps of their shoes. In one gleeful bit, three dancers lay on the floor with their feet in the air while the remaining three tapped on the upraised shoes. The music composed and performed by Chris Bryan and arranged by Bryan and Budris kept the mood upbeat.
Richter’s A Little Bubbly, danced by Michaela Clovis in a spangled flapper dress, lived up to its name. If Too Darn Hot took us to the Grove of the 1930s, Bubbly, with its bit of flash spiced up with a finger-wagging Charleston, took us to a 1920s speakeasy.
The evening ended with choreographer Michael J. Love’s bravura world premiere of #SampledMixedandRemixed: See-Line Women, danced by the company in white tops and pants. The Masters at Work remix set Nina Simone’s “See-Line Woman” to a driving beat with impactful African influences picked up by the taps of the dancers facing off in two sets of three. The dancers bent low over flexed knees, leaning into the dance. Their steps beat out the challenge in their edgy, percussive taps. It had hints of voguing and hip-hop, but woven throughout were the specifically African roots of the Black dance experience. It was the most complex piece of the evening, revealing layers of meaning that I could only see hints of from the outside.
What, When, Where
On Tap. Presented by The Lady Hoofers, with guest performances from tap students at Muhlenberg and Rowan Universities. $30-$35. May 13, 2023, at the Independence Seaport Museum, 211 S Columbus Boulevard. ladyhoofers.org.
The main building of Independence Seaport Museum is wheelchair and stroller accessible, including restrooms. More accessibility information can be found on their website.
Masks are not required at the Independence Seaport Museum.
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