Herbin “Tamango” Van Cayseele tap-dances with the God of the Sacred Forest, a towering stilt walker who wears a black mask as the pair improvise rhythms.
“I can’t see his eyes,” Tamango says. “I can’t see the sparkle. So we just communicate through the vibe.” Tamango’s Urban Tap, at the Kitchen Thursday through Saturday, is all about vibe. It’s a blend of freestyle tap, stilt dancing, hip-hop, jazz, Brazilian capoeira, African drumming, Indian singers, Australian didgeridoo, and more.
Born in French Guiana, Tamango started performing in France and has since traveled widely, collecting diverse inspirations and bringing them together on stages in Paris, Berlin, and New York. He sees himself as a catalyst. “People have to collaborate,” he insists. “If we don’t, we’ll be like dry potatoes.”
For six years, Urban Tap’s blend has been evolving. Until recently Tamango had a regular slot at S.O.B.’s downtown. “That was my school,” he explains. “It was like a lab. But I do lots of physical things, and I can’t be in a smoky space with people drinking and screaming.”
Improvisation is the key to his work. “With choreography, there’s no thrill,” he says. “You can’t really go further. I refuse to do choreography. Enough people do it.”
More dancers should move toward improv, he
argues: “I’ve never understood why they don’t. Choreography is such a limited challenge. You work out a routine, and then what? You repeat it every night. It’s boring.”
Urban Tap will be followed Friday and Saturday at 10 by more international flavor, when composer Fast Forward presents Feeding Frenzy, an “interactive concert” involving four chefs who feed the audience. Come hungry.