elevation of Joseph Wiggan and the funk/jazz fusion style of Jared Grimes? What
about Michelle Dorrance’s dramatic sense of building entrances and fast exits?
Unfortunately, many of those who presently write about tap and review
performances have not done their research. This lack of understanding often has
catastrophic results for artists seeking ;nancial support and recognition.
There is also the notion that tap dance is a solo form. A 2004 New Yorker
review said, “At its best [tap] uses improvisation, and you can’t make group
patterns if everyone is doing his own thing. From this limitation—solo improvisation—comes tap’s great strength, its status as an act of personal heroism:
naked, here-I-stand. Nevertheless, the limitation is a limitation, emotionally
and commercially.” This idea would dismiss the great variety acts of Coles &
Atkins; Pete, Peaches & Duke; The Miller Brothers; The Madison Trio; and
countless others. It also dismisses the vitality of the tap renaissance that began
in the 1970s with groundbreaking companies like the Jazz Tap Ensemble and
the American Tap Dance Orchestra. They created a brand-new form of concert
tap dance for their ensembles, interspersing solo and group improvisation with
composed, highly choreographed dances. This form, similar to that of jazz
ensembles, is still employed by tap companies and soloists.
Today, inspired by Dorrance Dance’s theatricality and virtuosity, many
new choreographers are bravely stretching the boundaries of tap. It is thriving
internationally as far as India, where Jason Samuels Smith performed with the
late kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das, and Germany, where Thomas Marek
and Sebastian Weber create unique conceptual tap works. Festivals throughout the U.S. have been ;ourishing for decades.
Tap dancers are the entrepreneurs of the dance world. If there isn’t a venue to
be found, then one will be created, in a club, at a wedding, in a festival, as a guest
artist with the Philharmonic or grooving with the band at Dizzy’s Jazz Club. Crit-
ics can help assure the long life of tap dance by in-depth analysis and interest. ■
Brenda Bufalino is the founder of the American Tap Dance Orchestra.
video to Beyoncé’s
“Formation” went viral.
Chicago Tap Theatre’s
show We Will Tap
You! celebrated the
music of Queen.