Chicago Human Rhythm Project | Dance review
Lane Alexander paused between sets at the MCA Stage to introduce the performers. While many in the audience were undoubtedly familiar with the talented lineup (Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s annual Rhythm World festival culminates this weekend), the moment seemed related to something the CHRP artistic director has professed in the past. To paraphrase: Tap doesn’t get as much attention as contemporary dance or ballet does. And what a shame that is, considering the degree of heart-stopping skill that’s often on display.
Last night’s solo showcase burned on all cylinders—from the optically elusive shifts and slides of Derick K. Grant to the fluid skills of Sam Weber. The opening concert of the JUBA! series highlighted some of the world’s best and brightest; for tap aficionados, it must have been a treat to watch such supreme technique. There were also “wow” moments for the casual fan, though the evening would have done well with a duo or trio to add variety, despite the night’s intention of showcasing individual talent.
With 11 performers and one jazz interlude from the Greg Spero Trio, the evening took on an informal setting. Tappers and audience members jived off each other’s energy. At one point, Dianne “Lady Di” Walker stopped to pose during her set, as someone backstage snapped a photo from the wing. Of course, the audience didn’t mind. It was an impromptu treat of charm and charisma.
As with Walker, the nuance of tap rests in the personalities of those doing the tapping. Jason Janas, for example, danced ever so close to the stage’s edge with unrelenting force, as if toying with the idea of losing balance or falling over the edge. He’s a risk taker, and it showed. At one point, he somehow channeled a Michael Jackson slide-step on the inner portions of his shoes—the one possible comparison that comes to mind. Jumanne Taylor is a gentle, introspective soul, based on his soft, subtle, quick steps. Alexander opened the second act with taps and turns to Bach’s French Suite #3 in A Minor–classic mover dancing to classical—and Yuji Uragami from Japan began cautiously but built to a furious pace of phrases, akin to the pace of a drum roll. Clad in fiery-red clothes and golden shoes to match a fiery-red finish, Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards closed. Like the shoes, the rest of this week’s lineup should be golden.
The JUBA! series continues tonight at the MCA Stage with “The Growing Circle” and August 4 with “Masters of American Tap.”