Savion Glover who? Gregory Hines what?
Regrettably, Gene Kelly, singing, rain and … Gene Kelly are usually the only things that come to mind at the mention of tap dancing. Taps, Yale’s own tap dance ensemble, wants to change that. Their new show Tappy Feet, going on this weekend at the Off Broadway Theater, is the next step in their plan to, in the words of co-President Jordan Garner ’08, “bring the art form to the fore and increase its presence on campus.”
Tappy Feet showcases the talents of the ensemble but does so in a somewhat scatterbrained manner. Their challenging and dynamic choreography proves they are all highly-skilled dancers with years of training and performing experience, but their skills are often obscured by discordant music, bulky costumes and gratuitous props.
What is so remarkable about tap dance is its ability to stand on its own. It is the most striking without any aural accompaniment. However, Taps chooses to join the majority of their pieces with music that detracts from their podiatric syncopation. Exultant crooning obscures the beats too often, and while it is fun to watch a tap dancer dance, it is the union of their body movements and tapped rhythms that is most inspiring. Music can, and often does, enhance the lilt of a tap number, but the pieces in Tappy Feet are too often bogged down by bloated lyrics and swollen instrumentals.
When used, sound should complement the taps, enforce their pulses and electrify their cadence. “Spooning,” choreographed by Samuel Gottstein ’10, does just that. In the strongest piece of the show, Gottstein chooses to accentuate the organic tap sound by including beats generated by a collection of non-instruments (a trash can, a cardboard box, a glass bowl and even a radiator cover). For him, it is important that “the dancers are not constrained by speed so their pace and effect can increase throughout the piece.”
Also strong is the show’s finale, choreographed by Danielle Gilbert ’08. “At A Safe Distance Only” is accompanied by an industrial track that combines the clattering of metal with the tinkling of chimes. Gilbert adds yet another sonic element to her piece with the inclusion of drumsticks. “I wanted something loud, something big, something fun,” she said.
Also of note is the wide variety of tap styles included in the performance. “Tap is usually written off as only being able to be performed in one style,” co-President Rebecca Schwartz ’08 said. “We made a strong effort to vary our approach in order to showcase the range of the medium.” The choreographers’ approaches to tap dance run the gamut in style from “Singin’ in the Rain” to “Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk,” with a little “Stomp” thrown in. They even broaden their definition of tap dance itself to include traditional step (care of Steppin’ Out) and even an unconventional tapping and stacking cup routine.
Tappy Feet is composed of a handful of disjointed pieces combined in a rambling manner. For those looking to add a little tap to their otherwise banal weekend, the sparkling routines are worth it. Tickets are free, the venue is close, and the show is a mere 50 minutes (including a ten minute intermission), so if you want to pre-game for Lewis Black on Friday, look no further than Taps’ Tappy Feet.