Listen Up!

The flamenco dancer duels with the floor. The Irish step dancer gives it an airy bit of slap and tickle. The tap dancer teases sounds out of it, playing the wood like a big instrument, listening to the way a light brush sounds after a no- nonsense assertion of heel-and-toe or a trail of fluttering beats.

In the best tap dance shows, like those the 20-year-old Jazz Tap Ensemble puts on, the dancers are as unaffected about entertaining as the accompanying musicians. They concentrate on the rhythm business, occasionally flashing us complicitous smiles that say, "Hear that?" or "Catch this." Individuality is rampant. Dancing his own stylish choreography to Mingus's "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," Steve Zee is all slouchy ease—now laying down his taps leanly into Jerry Kalaf's brushwork on the drums, making the pauses tell; now doing a virtuoso turn in silence. In contrast, the feet of French beauty Roxane Butterfly, improvising to Cole Porter's "Love for Sale," never stop pattering out suave little rhythms. Sam Weber brings the late Paul Draper to mind. He's got the upright body of the ballet dancer he once was, and sometimes sounds as if he's dancing to Bach even when he's not—his footwork is that intricate, that solid. He and the beguilingly down-to-earth Becky Twitchell are well matched. When Zee or the radiant Lynn Dally dance, the floor looks softer and deeper, and their arms and bodies trace big, easy swoops in space while their feet raise hell.

Dancer-choreographer Dally, the company's director and a gregarious host at performances, makes the whole stage an interesting place. In pieces like her All Blues or the new Nonce, the dancers act like folks strolling down a street, holding dialogues, and suddenly banding together in the same groove. Soloists tend to look as if they've dropped into dancing by way of a contribution to an ongoing party.

Details

Jazz Tap Ensemble
Joyce Theater

Rennie Harris Puremovement
P.S. 122

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In some numbers, technology ups the ante as far as space games go. During Noche, Gregory Hines's excel lent Groove, and the Twitchell-Kalaf duet Rhythm-a-ning (Mingus), video designs by Dennis Diamond emphasize the interplay between what we see and what we hear. Pretaped dancing feet tricked into slow motion or freeze-frames are ingeniously mixed with live-action close-ups of tapping and of the busy hands of Kalaf, pianist Theo Saunders, and bassist Henry Franklin.

By the time the tremendous finale, Interplay, created by Jimmy Slyde and the JTE dancers, unfurls its skids and swooshes and deceptively nice-and-easy moves, we count everyone onstage as a friend.

Old films of people dancing on a Harlem sidewalk show maneuvers not unlike the flipping and shoulder spins of B-boying. It's not just the feats, it's the anger and the furious pyrotechnics that give rap and the various techniques of hip-hop their contemporary edge: Words spatter out like machine-gun fire, but never blur; feet threaten to trip each other up, but spin free as if invisible hands had untied a knot. Compared to tap, this African American form plays hardball.

In Rennie Harris's Puremovement, where hip-hop meets shadows of West African dance and Brazilian capoeira, violence is a given. The all-male dances are raw, explosive. Ad miring the tight unison in P-Funk, you still get the feeling anyone could decide at any moment to do something else. The theater takes on the volatility of a street corner. Between feinting and spinning and air-punching and talking wise, Clyde Evans Jr. and Ron Wood, performing Gestures, by Preach, a/k/a Floyd Sulli van Jr., flash vignettes of being dead and getting your sneakers stolen, shooting up, and being jumped. In Harris's horrific solo, Endangered Species, he re enacts being chased through unknown streets by unknown assailants. He runs for his life, getting nowhere, his anguished gestures flickering like a damaged strip of film, his body trembling. Meanwhile his taped voice meditates on his family. His sister announces she's a lesbian; "Maybe," he says, "she was destined to choose to be a person."

That, I think, is Harris's message. And I'm not talking just about the displays of individuality in dress, manner, and dance styles that we get from these terrific men (Harris, Bran don Albright, James Colter, Evans, Jorge Lehmann, Rodney Ma son, Joey Middleton Jr., Les Rivera, Sullivan, and Wood). The message goes beyond the sensational dazzle of head spins and dives, of limbs that twist so fast their owner seems to be disassembling him self. It encompasses the wish to be identified, and to identify oneself, as an individual, not just as a member of a race or a member of a gang. When people call Rennie Harris "fresh," they're turned on by the wit of street, club, and MTV gone pomo. His tough-talking idealism may be even fresher. The flamenco dancer duels with the floor. The Irish step dancer gives it an airy bit of slap and tickle. The tap dancer teases sounds out of it, playing the wood like a big instrument, listening to the way a light brush sounds after a no- nonsense assertion of heel-and-toe or a trail of fluttering beats.

In the best tap dance shows, like those the 20-year-old Jazz Tap Ensemble puts on, the dancers are as unaffected about entertaining as the accompanying musicians. They concentrate on the rhythm business, occasionally flashing us complicitous smiles that say, "Hear that?" or "Catch this." Individuality is rampant. Dancing his own stylish choreography to Mingus's "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," Steve Zee is all slouchy ease—now laying down his taps leanly into Jerry Kalaf's brushwork on the drums, making the pauses tell; now doing a virtuoso turn in silence. In contrast, the feet of French beauty Roxane Butterfly, improvising to Cole Porter's "Love for Sale," never stop pattering out suave little rhythms. Sam Weber brings the late Paul Draper to mind. He's got the upright body of the ballet dancer he once was, and sometimes sounds as if he's dancing to Bach even when he's not—his footwork is that intricate, that solid. He and the beguilingly down-to-earth Becky Twitchell are well matched. When Zee or the radiant Lynn Dally dance, the floor looks softer and deeper, and their arms and bodies trace big, easy swoops in space while their feet raise hell.

Dancer-choreographer Dally, the company's director and a gregarious host at performances, makes the whole stage an interesting place. In pieces like her All Blues or the new Nonce, the dancers act like folks strolling down a street, holding dialogues, and suddenly banding together in the same groove. Soloists tend to look as if they've dropped into dancing by way of a contribution to an ongoing party.

In some numbers, technology ups the ante as far as space games go. During Noche, Gregory Hines's excel lent Groove, and the Twitchell-Kalaf duet Rhythm-a-ning (Mingus), video designs by Dennis Diamond emphasize the interplay between what we see and what we hear. Pretaped dancing feet tricked into slow motion or freeze-frames are ingeniously mixed with live-action close-ups of tapping and of the busy hands of Kalaf, pianist Theo Saunders, and bassist Henry Franklin.

By the time the tremendous finale, Interplay, created by Jimmy Slyde and the JTE dancers, unfurls its skids and swooshes and deceptively nice-and-easy moves, we count everyone onstage as a friend.

Old films of people dancing on a Harlem sidewalk show maneuvers not unlike the flipping and shoulder spins of B-boying. It's not just the feats, it's the anger and the furious pyrotechnics that give rap and the various techniques of hip-hop their contemporary edge: Words spatter out like machine-gun fire, but never blur; feet threaten to trip each other up, but spin free as if invisible hands had untied a knot. Compared to tap, this African American form plays hardball.

In Rennie Harris's Puremovement, where hip-hop meets shadows of West African dance and Brazilian capoeira, violence is a given. The all-male dances are raw, explosive. Ad miring the tight unison in P-Funk, you still get the feeling anyone could decide at any moment to do something else. The theater takes on the volatility of a street corner. Between feinting and spinning and air-punching and talking wise, Clyde Evans Jr. and Ron Wood, performing Gestures, by Preach, a/k/a Floyd Sulli van Jr., flash vignettes of being dead and getting your sneakers stolen, shooting up, and being jumped. In Harris's horrific solo, Endangered Species, he re enacts being chased through unknown streets by unknown assailants. He runs for his life, getting nowhere, his anguished gestures flickering like a damaged strip of film, his body trembling. Meanwhile his taped voice meditates on his family. His sister announces she's a lesbian; "Maybe," he says, "she was destined to choose to be a person."

That, I think, is Harris's message. And I'm not talking just about the displays of individuality in dress, manner, and dance styles that we get from these terrific men (Harris, Bran don Albright, James Colter, Evans, Jorge Lehmann, Rodney Ma son, Joey Middleton Jr., Les Rivera, Sullivan, and Wood). The message goes beyond the sensational dazzle of head spins and dives, of limbs that twist so fast their owner seems to be disassembling him self. It encompasses the wish to be identified, and to identify oneself, as an individual, not just as a member of a race or a member of a gang. When people call Rennie Harris "fresh," they're turned on by the wit of street, club, and MTV gone pomo. His tough-talking idealism may be even fresher.

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