2005 Soul to Sole Festival Concert

The continuum of tap from 1930s elegance to today's stomping rhythm pulsed in the concert concluding Tapestry Dance Company's 2005 Soul to Sole Festival

2005 Soul to Sole Festival Concert

Helm Fine Art Center, June 4

The continuum of tap from the elegance of the 1930s to the stomping rhythm of today pulsed in the dance concert concluding Tapestry Dance Company's Soul to Sole Festival. After three days of teaching classes, the masters danced. Against a glowing red backdrop, Acia Gray kicked it off in a sassy pose with a finger-snapping rhythm. Her arm raised straight over her head, she hailed the beat, then broke into a cascade of steps that embodied her own puckish energy. She is not kidding; she is serious in her joy for the form. The teens in the audience responded with cheers for her bouquets of taps, slides, and turns. They saw how effortlessly she makes the vitality of tap look, even though they well know different.

As the artistic director of Tapestry, Gray brought together the gamut of rhythm tap artists, from the most senior stars to the up-and-coming rebel, Jason Janas from New Jersey. The accomplished Janas has a taste for the low-down, heavy strike step that sticks its tongue out at the light-as-air tap epitomized by Fred Astaire. In fact, Janas' persona was a bit belligerent; he never cracked a smile, and he held his upper body with a lumpish attitude.

Derick Grant, who performed in Broadway's Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk (playing Savion Glover's role in the national tour), expressed a contemporary feel with a more playful attitude by responding in delicate taps to the tune of the Alphabet Song. He clearly had fun when he tapped out the theme to TV's The Munsters to the audience's delight.

Sarah Petronio, based in Paris, served as a bridge to the past with her intelligent tracery of intricate combinations that had a grace and sensuality that charged through her entire body. Like others, she often performed in counterpoint to the Mark Rubenstein Trio, but she ushered the drummer, Jeremy Brown, center stage with only his sticks in hand to have a conversation with her steps. He beat the wooden floor, shadowing the lines of rhythm she established with her strikes.

The king of the evening was Fayard Nicholas of the famed Nicholas Brothers, who made movie history with their onscreen dancing. Delightful clips from the PBS Great Performances documentary Tap Dance in America incontrovertibly proved this guy and his brother were among the best ever, as Astaire himself attested speaking of their sequence in the 1943 film Stormy Weather. To thoughtful narration by the great dancer Gregory Hines, these lanky lightning tappers, who famously punctuated their routines by popping up out of splits like genies, demonstrated their sheer joy of life. By the time Nicholas appeared on the stage, everyone knew what his life meant in the history of tap. He is now 90 and has had two hip replacements, so his dancing consisted of swaying with lots of hand action, but his still joyous spirit was palpable.

The theme of this concert was "Friends," and when Gray and the entire group danced beside Nicholas for the finale, it was clear that this lineup of master percussionists stood soul to sole.

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Tapestry Dance Company, Soul to Sole Festival, Acia Gray, Jason Janas, Fred Astaire, Derek Grant, Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, Savion Glover, Sarah Petronio, Mark Rubenstein Trio, Jeremy Brown, Fayard Nicholas, Nicholas Brothers, Great Performances, Tap Dance in America, Stormy Weather, Gregory Hines

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