Tapping the scene
Chicago Tap Theatre succeeds at hybridizing tap and other dance forms.
We realized when talking by phone with Chicago Tap Theatre artistic director Mark Yonally about the company’s Saturday 19 mixed bill, “Tap Out Loud,” that his observations were similar to our own thoughts when watching choreography under the umbrella of “tap hybridization.”
Crossbred dances with one tap parent, in his view, frequently ricochet back and forth between tap and some other form—jazz, ballet, contemporary—with nothing moderating the jump cut. “Or,” says Yonally, “I see really watered-down body movement placed on top of tap dancers, or other types of dancers given only the most basic tap steps—what they can handle. What I haven’t seen is a tap dance that integrates other vocabulary in a deep, meaningful and interesting way.”
If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself…with a little help from your friends. “Tap Out Loud” is comprised of 11 dances in two acts; some were made in-house by Yonally or CTT founding member and rehearsal director Kendra Jorstad. A revival from the late ’80s, Brenda Bufalino’s Flying Turtles, provides historical context as one of the first works to take tap vocabulary beyond its traditional chorus-line and party-piece applications. Two premieres, though, arrive via Chicago choreographers who, as Yonally explains, “could probably shuffle off to Buffalo if you asked them to” but are otherwise untrained in flea hops, graboffs, paradiddles and other intricacies common to CTT productions.
Kyle Vincent Terry, founder and former director of Chicago Dance Crash, and Eddy Ocampo, known for his physically demanding and coolly sensual choreography, give the program a spin on two different axes. In Terry’s hands, tap’s essential ingredient—impact—opens up into “a full-on brawl,” while in LAB, Ocampo and Yonally experiment with finding a common ground between their disciplines “that feels organic and not contrived.”
Yonally says he’s not out to prove fans of classic tap wrong. “There’s nothing wrong with it, and I’m actually a big fan of that kind of dance. But it’s been done.”
“Tap Out Loud” plays the Athenaeum Theatre Saturday 19.