Jason Koerner, courtesy of the National YoungArts Foundation
While tapping to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Dario Natarelli finds a way to make something we have all heard before sound new. His choreography alternately matches the rhythmic cadence of King's words and honors the meaningful pauses between them. Watching the masterful control he has over his footwork and dynamics, it's no wonder tap sensation Michelle Dorrance scooped him up to perform with her and serve as her assistant choreographer at Vail Dance Festival—before he's even graduated from college.
Sarah Reich has turned her tap shoes into instruments. Photo by Christopher Erk
Perhaps the most precious tradition in tap dance is honoring the elders, reflecting a belief that dancers cannot tap a sound without re-sounding the steps of the masters. This show of gratitude is not nostalgic but regenerative: the practice of realizing the future from the past while making one's own inscription on the tradition.
And so it is with Sarah Reich and the release of her debut album, New Change, a mix of original tunes composed of percussive tap rhythms performed by Reich and an ensemble of jazz musicians. The tunes are dedicated to and named after jazz tap masters—from Harold Cromer, the tap dancer/vaudevillian who was Reich's decade-long mentor, to such notables as Ted Louis Levy, Arthur Duncan, Ivery Wheeler, Jason Samuels Smith, Brenda Bufalino and Dianne "Lady Di" Walker.
What is "new" in New Change is the common-sense idea that tap dance is music—and that it can be composed by tap dancers.
Lisa La Touche's 2017 choreogaphy with Felipe Galganni, Megan Bartula, Gabe Winns, Brittany DeStefano, Lisa La Touche, Charles Renato, Oriana Niño & Grace Cannady, PC Amanda Gentile
Every summer Tap City gives New Yorkers a week of classes, events and awards culminating in "Rhythm in Motion." This year the showcase, on July 11, has gathered star tappers—and not only tappers—in a mix of tradition and innovation.
Chloe Arnold's new group Apartment 33 (her previous group, Syncopated Ladies, went viral) as well as Caleb Teicher (a 2012 "25 to Watch") will be part of the mix. Lisa La Touche has choreographed a trio, and the fearless B-girl from the Bronx, Ana "Rokafella" Garcia, is choreographing for a quartet of break dancers. Leo Sandoval, the smoothest tapper from Brazil, is making a new piece to music by Steve Reich.
Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Jason Samuels Smith and Derick K. Grant take the floor during our cover shoot.
In 1989, Congress passed a resolution naming May 25—the birthday of tap legend Bill "Bojangles" Robinson—as National Tap Dance Day, and it has been celebrated annually on that date ever since. For years, the May issue of Dance Magazine featured a tap dancer on its cover to coincide with the holiday and highlight the form.
But some considered the gesture to be mere tokenism. "It feels like a handout," says tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith. "Our art form deserves more than that."
Tune is still at home onstage. Photo by Franco Lacosta, courtesy Tune.
Tommy Tune is a man of many talents. The 10-time Tony Award–winning director, choreographer and star is famous for shows like Nine, My One and Only, The Will Roger's Follies and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Tune is in a special class of gifted director/choreographers that includes George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Michael Bennett—yet he also danced and starred in his musicals.
Today, he is touring the country with his nightclub act Tommy Tune Tonight. At 79, he is still lithe, graceful and willowy, and looks right at home onstage.
So what's it like to be backstage with the legend? Tune recently invited Dance Magazine behind the scenes for a rehearsal and performance in Los Angeles.
In college dance programs, tap usually doesn't get the same kind of love as modern and ballet. So what's a serious tap dancer to do? Here's how to pick a program that will challenge you—and how to get by if your school doesn't offer enough tap.
To me, dancing is an opportunity to exist in an alternate reality. With my imagination moving galaxies per minute, there's no telling what I will do, when or how—and that's my escape from this world.
It's common for my mind to drift off and borrow ideas from a character in a Disney movie while performing with Wynton Marsalis, or to be thinking about how algorithms work while performing with Mariah Carey on "Good Morning America."
Fall For Dance is always a huge talkabout here in the Dance Media offices. So after all the programs were performed this year, a few of the editors from Dance Magazine, Pointe and Dance Teacher got together on Google Hangouts this morning to share our thoughts. Here are excerpts from our convo:
Apart from having won the Tony Award for best choreography, the dances in Damn Yankees, West Side Story and the 1994 revival of Show Boat have little in common.
Not the choreographers—Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins and Susan Stroman—or the composers—Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, Leonard Bernstein, and Jerome Kern. Not the dancers, either—the standouts were Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Dorothy Stanley.
The name that repeats in all three Playbills belongs to Harold Prince—a producer of the first two and director of the third.
At one point during my latest show, Unbound, I scamper offstage and disrobe as quickly as possible. Behind me, a friend I have known since we began taking dance class together 20 years ago (we danced to "The Color Song"; she was orange, I was purple) holds out a dress shirt for me to put my arms through. I start buttoning furiously while my dance partner, who was also one of my tap teachers for six years, holds out pants into which I step gingerly. While I fix my belt, she helps snake the microphone wire back up through my shirt so I can clip it into my collar and be back onstage in under a minute.
Among most groups of friends, this would be no ordinary—or comfortable—situation. But for me and the members of my company, Off Beat, it's a ritual that we're used to. We don't even think twice about the closeness, the vulnerability, the physical contact.
Dancers develop bonds unlike any other: Through our passion and commitment for our craft, and all the time we spend together, we develop our own family-like relationships that are almost impossible to explain to non-dancers.