Soul / Sole Connections

This Tapestry concert saw each dancer create a deeply personal solo from the past, then riff on it in the present

Soul / Sole Connections

Soul/Sole Connections

Rollins Studio Theatre at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside
Nov. 1

To kick off Tapestry Dance Company's 26th season, with four out of the five company members brand-new to the group, artistic director Acia Gray asked each of them to dig deep. The result was a series of five deeply personal tap solos, each rooted in memory and choreographed by the soloist.

Each was captivating in a distinct way. The first, Jeremy Arnold, had me at Bach. In a voiceover, he recalled his childhood exasperation when his classical-musician parents practiced at home. "If only I would have listened a little deeper," he mused before making a deep-dive into Partita No. 3. Buoyed atop one toe and then deep inside the strains of the violin and regret, he seemed propelled by sensitivity to the music's – and life's – tiny vibrations. Michael Love's solo, which followed, was also rooted in the sounds of his childhood home, but these were the pop songs, like the Janet Jackson number to which he incorporated Jackson-like pops and fluid improvisation, on MTV. Andrea Torres' inward meditations built to furiousness along with Radiohead's "Creep," suggesting teenage trouble beyond typical angst, and Tony Merriwether's athletic strides to Bob Marley recalled clarifying, long-distance runs with "Jammin'" in his ears. Finally, the beaming Siobhan Cook, dance captain and longtime company member (her mother is Tapestry co-founder Deirdre Strand), performed a hip-hop inspired solo to the deep beats of Blackstreet's "No Diggity," recalling the moves that were currency for acceptance in high school and transcending them with her far-reaching limbs.

That was the first half. As the dancers exited the stage before intermission, Gray crossed behind them – a subtle move, but Gray's presence and deep stare out into the audience are never subtle. For Act II, Gray herself ushered the company onstage. They'd shed tees and neutrals in favor of sleek black-and-white attire (costumes by Pam Friday) as individualized as their artistic personalities, and they emerged from their memories into the present, performing to remixes of and riffs on the music from Act I. Here, they shared the stage with – and challenged – each other and Gray, relating to each other in turn like a dreamy, jazzy team-building exercise, and looking already like a cohesive company of artistic allies. Their alliance, and Gray's appearances, garnered cheers from the audience, especially in "There's Not One," in which the source of Torres' teen trouble was revealed, and solved, as she rejected each of the men before pairing up with Cook.

If the show had any shortcoming, it may have been a too-slick tie-up; surely grown-up artists experience nuances and confusions, too. It's solely because of Tapestry's performances that I know rhythm tap as a genre valuable for exploring complex emotion, and I hope to see more of that as the season progresses.

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Soul / Sole Connections, Tapestry Dance Company, Acia Gray, Siobhan Cook, Jeremy Arnold, Andrea Torres, Tony Merriwether, Michael Love, Pam Friday, rhythm tap

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