National Heritage Museum, Lexington, MA
May 19, 2006
Reviewed by Jane Goldberg
It’s not only the feet one sells in tap dancing. In the Boston area’s National Tap Dance Day celebration, many faces shed light into how the art of tap—some call it “hoofin”—expresses itself.
Facial expressions ran from the serene to the fierce. Josh Hilberman, anything but footloose and fancy free, tore up the stage in his exchanges with the honoree of the night, pianist Paul Arslanian. In his fabulous interpretations/syncopations/understanding of jazz and his sometimes mean look, he proved that tap is anything but happy feet.
Jamie Larowitz Sherman and producer Thelma Goldberg told their story with serenity, in an ease-filled soft shoe to “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” Although happiness shone in their faces, it wasn’t through amateurish forced smiles. The look may have even derived from Sherman’s casual but intricate choreography. The two women looked like pals in heaven.
Julia Boynton and Pam Raff, on the other foot (pun intended), while totally in sync foot-wise, had very different expressions in their bodies and faces. Boynton was more the tackler, while Raff was reserved and steady, almost waiting in her power of attack. And yet their feet were doing the same thing! One of the amazing things about this art is how different yet synchronized it all looks when you look at more than the feet.
With Drika Overton, the Long Tall Sally of tap, it’s hard to know what to focus on in this svelte dancer, but one strand of hair kept swinging in her face, distracting us from the genuinely good footwork happening in her otherwise swinging body.
Arslanian himself, one of the founders of the California-based Jazz Tap Ensemble, showed a film clip of a gorgeous if dark duet he performed with the long ago but not forgotten Camden Richman. He had on this determined, “I’m gonna get this routine if it kills me” expression and did the shim sham with the gaggle of hoofers at the end of the clip.
Lady Di—Dianne Walker, the evening’s emcee, performed with a look of serenity and gratitude for this tap dancers’ best friend, the dedicated accompanist who doesn’t need to take the spotlight to express his heart.
The late Gregory Hines used to claim he was a “feet man,” but this concert pointed out how tap is just as much about the particular sensibilities each dancer brings to the stage. See www.thedanceinn.com.