Trading on the Tap Floor

Dancers Create a Global Village in Manhattan

The tap community is now so international, in fact, that many of its foreign-born members hardly seem foreign anymore. The "Tap All-Stars" event on July 12 will feature French hoofer Roxane Butterfly and Austrian-born Max Pollak, two dancers whose improvisational skills give them as much right as anyone to the mantle of their mentor, Boston-based Jimmy Slyde. Pollak, who also studied with Lyons in Germany, and whose accentless English matches his accurately idiomatic dancing, takes the mixing of cultures a step farther. A student of Cuban music, he's trained himself to tap within the complex, interlocking rhythms of traditional rumba and often travels to Cuba carrying hundreds of donated tap shoes, in order to teach as many eager students as he can.

The "Tap City" gala planned for July 11 offers not only the star power of Hines and Glover and the consummate mastery of veterans Slyde and Prince Spenser, but also Sarah Petronio, who's American when in Paris, where she has taught for 20 years, but here is thought of as French. Also performing will be Tapage, a French-Japanese duo who mix their cultural heritage with their experience in ATDO. Last year, they danced to Mexican modernist composer Revueltas's Sensemayá, an exercise that could have been pretentious but looked stunning, bringing tap as close as it's ever come to the sublime.

Tap's globalization is an inevitable consequence of passing the genre from person to person. "Make it your own" is the mantra. The July 13 performance, "Tap Masters/Tap Mentors," honors this tradition, with dancers paying homage to their teachers. Last year's "Masters/Mentors" contained the festival's most touching moments: Marshall Davis broke into an unannounced solo in honor of the late Steve Condos, making a flurry of accents sound something like inconsolable grief. Ted Levy, swinging harder than one would think possible, danced for Buster Brown, the only master to be honored again this year. Brown, sprightly and generous to the end, died in May. But in the many tappers who will perform his "Laura" on Saturday, his dance lives. And not only in them.

Tap star power: Gregory Hines at "Tap City 2001"
photo: Peter Petronio
Tap star power: Gregory Hines at "Tap City 2001"


For complete festival information, call 646-230-9564, or visit www.nyctapfestival.com.

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