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Tap City 2004
The Duke on 42nd Street
New York, New York
July 5–10, 2004
Reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Another Tap City summer lovefest—with its Circle Line jam-session cruise, omnibus shows at The Duke, and classes, screenings, and panels in various Manhattan venues—has left New Yorkers flabbergasted and smiling. Tap was once endangered, considered nostalgic kitsch by some, its masterful elders and their exploits largely forgotten outside the faithful. But no longer, thanks to devotees like the unsinkable Tony Waag (Tap City’s top man and emcee), Jane Goldberg (longtime dancer, producer, historian, and journalist), and the late, great Gregory Hines. It’s fitting that each year the tap community—international, multigenerational, and sporting styles from old school to postmodern—comes together to rejoice and strut its stuff.
That stuff is, as Stevie Wonder would say, hotter than July. The opening gala’s star turns included Jeannie Hill’s effervescent tribute to Ann Miller (Shaking the Blues Away), Van Porter’s tough-guy charisma and pugilistic moves (Sharing), and a heavenly vocal by Broadway’s Lillias White topped off by her saucy improv with revered tap veteran Jimmy Slyde. Later, the action moved upstairs to a cabaret setting, marred by chatter and the noise of food consumption, where double-threat bandleader and hoofer Max Pollak lit up the room with his scintillating hybrid Rumba Tap.
There’s space here to mention only a few of Friday night’s “Tap New York” highlights. Baakari Wilder’s solo opened with delicate, contained phrases that encouraged viewers to sit forward and focus. With one ear turned toward the resonant floor, the cool Wilder laid down no sound he did not intend. Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, deceptively petite but forceful, showed that she is a true jazz musician of the feet. In Miles to Go, Germaine Salsberg—face, fingers, her entire wiry body—created quirky, fleeting shapes and moods. Smooth operator Reggio McLaughlin, from Chicago, skimmed the floor effortlessly with his rapid taps as he sang about his sojourns in Strike Up My Feet. Ageless Mabel Lee (But Not for Me) tantalized us with her celebrated showgirl gams: One surely must be named “Dorian” and the other “Gray.” To bring it all home, Karen Calloway Williams led her stageful of hard-charging students in some fancy fireworks.
Missed the boat this year? See you in ’05!
For more information: www.nyctapfestival.com