Chicago Tap Theatre
Mark Yonally and his Chicago Tap Theatre mount a new show called Mixology, a program of short works, at the Athenaeum this weekend. “I don’t know what it says about our audience base, but a lot of people have been asking if we’re going to serve drinks,” Yonally laughs. “If it’s any help, there is a bar in the theater lobby.”
The mix in this offering isn’t gin and vermouth, but dance and—wow—live music. It’s an obvious combination that’s all too rare on the concert dance stage, mostly because it costs more to hire live musicians than it does to push a button on a CD player.
The 11 dancers (including Yonally) of the CTT are joined in Mixology by the Rhythm Four, a musical quartet that features vocalist Leslie Beukelman. “She makes every song come alive,” Yonally says. “She has a lovely persona. I think the audience will fall in love with her.”
In the show, Beukelman sings a diverse repertoire of pop songs selected by Yonally for his choreography, including a few dramatic chanteuse numbers that seem completely anathema to the peppy wittiness often associated with tap dancing.
These include “Glory Box” by Portishead, “Killing Me Softly” (made famous by the Fugees), “Lilac Wine” (sung by Nina Simone and others) and “Breathe Me” by trip-hop diva Sia. “Tap dance is not as different from other dance forms as it is often made out to be,” Yonally says. “There’s rhythm in modern dance—or any dance—and there’s full body movement in tap.”
Yonally aims to take advantage of the full range of expressiveness of tap dance: “If I blindfold you and tap out three different rhythms for you, you’ll be able to easily tell the emotions of each one, whether it’s joy, anger or melancholy,” he says. “Emotion is inherent in rhythmic expression.”—AC
Mixology is at the Athenaeum Friday 11 to May 20.