The American Tap Dance Foundation’s “Rhythm in Motion,” a performance series directed and curated by Tony Waag, seeks to combine young and emerging talent with premier choreographers in its new showcase. The series features six performances over five days.
“After years of presenting tap and seeing that there was a growing number of dancers, and more festivals and more work choreography being created in the field, I decided we needed to find a place where we could present this new work,” Waag said. “Not an easy task, as there are so few venues even available or affordable. I think that our audiences are also growing, therefore an urgent need for more productions.”
Waag also finds that dancers want to continue working with tap, despite the notion that it is outdated, because it is flexible and lends itself to individualized expression.
“I feel it allows me, and allows anyone who is interested in it, to be themselves and create their own style and give their own voice to it,” he said.
Through the American Tap Dance Foundation and “Rhythm in Motion,” Waag is providing a forum for dancers today to create an individualized style of expression. Caleb Teicher, one of the choreographers for “Rhythm in Motion,” echoes this sentiment.
“Tony has given opportunity to many new voices in the tap dance community, and we're all very thankful for that,” Teicher said.
Program B, which runs April 25 and 26, features works by Caleb Teicher and Felipe Galganni, among many others, both of whom are premiering pieces that are largely influenced by the music to which they are set.
Felipe Galganni, a Brazil native whose work is based in Brazilian music and rhythms, has two works premiering in “Rhythm in Motion.”
“My intention at first was to give a taste of the Brazilian Samba to the students of the TCYE, after I started choreographing it I found this other song that I also really liked,” Galganni said. “I realized the pieces were connected. That was a story and a very dramatic relation between them.”
“The mood goes from cold to hot, it's almost a hunt story,” he said. “I was inspired by the way blood flows in our bodies like a dance of energetic and vital movements, which constitutes the eternal pulse of life.”
Teicher’s work “Variations” is set to Glenn Gould’s recording of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and is performed by Teicher and dancers Elizabeth Burke and Gabriel Winns.
“The compositions are short, fast, and playful,” he said.
The piece pushes pattern, form, and convention with movement ranging from intricate and dense to simple and silly.
“I want the audience to connect to these patterns and the idea of variations on a theme in a new way,” Teicher said.
Beyond playing with the boundaries of form and rhythm, “Rhythm in Motion” also confronts larger social issues. “Many of the pieces are comments regarding our society right now dealing with everything from climate change to racism,” Waag said.
Brenda Bufalino’s piece, “Diary of a Racing Pigeon (Chapter 3),” deals with these larger issues by addressing climate change. Bufalino, one of the founding members of the American Tap Dance Foundation, demonstrates how tap can deal with the sort of rich and complex themes that people often assume are reserved for other styles of dance.
Her piece, which is at times comic and at others poignant, features a mix of monologues and dance compositions of her own creation. She takes on the persona of an “ingenue, a matron, and an elder,” she said, with “wonderful environmental projections created by Tony Waag.”
The final chapter of a series she has created over time, Bufalino’s piece shows the racing pigeon as “brave, loyal, and hopes to win, is challenged by her age and also fighting the elements of climate change with the final race which she dances.”
Such a diverse, far-reaching series showcases just what makes Waag so excited about the future of tap.
“It’s a growing and expanding creative art form that people are taking note of and they are realizing how amazing it is, and how inclusive it can be,” he said.
This inclusivity stems from the style’s ready acceptance of work that is serious as well as lighthearted.
“It can be a lot of fun, or it can be taken very seriously,” Waag said. “And that’s a beautiful thing.”