When the Jazz Tap Ensemble debuted at the Joyce in 1986, it was already the oldest of the handful of tap companies then experimenting with concert formats. The L.A.-based troupe, celebrating its 25th anniversary in Chelsea this week, is just about the last of those companies still tapping away. The intervening years and a lot of turnover have transformed the troupe from a collective to a gathering of soloists. Yet it’s never lost its attitude, centered in the lolling persona of artistic director Lynn Dally—easygoing, California cool.
From the beginning, JTE embraced an intergenerational mix, bringing in tap veterans like Honi Coles. These days Dally’s the elder, along with dry virtuoso Sam Weber, to gifted young siblings Joseph and Josette Wiggan. Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, a formidable apprentice 10 years ago, has grown into a mature artist (no less formidable as a mother of two). That continuity comforts during the program’s bittersweet tribute to Gregory Hines, who died last year at 57. Guest artist at JTE’s first Joyce showing, Hines hovers over this appearance in footage and in his choreography for Groove—irreplaceable.