Dallas — In my year-end reflection of 2014, I offered up the idea of live music being the new normal for dance in DFW. While it was posed more for wishful thinking, Sunday’s tap concert In Good Time, presented as part of the Rhythm in Fusion Festival at the historic Majestic Theatre, gave me hope that it’s closer to becoming a reality.
Tap dance has its roots working alongside musicians to complement the music while the dancer offers up his or her own expression of the rhythms played. Many of the great jazz musicians and conductors consistently performed with tap dancers. This concert harkened back to those days with the RIFF Rhythm Section, a trio consisting of Scott Bucklin on the keyboard, Jonathan Fisher on bass and Lamant Taylor on the drums.
Matthew Shields, director and emcee for the evening, keeps the audience engaged with his charisma but also dazzles everyone in the first tap solo of the evening. Dancing to a nice, easy tempo—almost like a soft shoe—Shields glides across the stage with a down-to-earth smile the whole time. The entire picture is a step back in time, from the old-fashioned décor of the theater to the band to Shields’ moves that are reminiscent of Steve Condos and Jimmy Slyde.
The concert not only takes the audience back in time but also into the future and around the world. Irish step dancers Abbey Magill and Shannon McCauley skim across the stage to an instrumental recording of Woodkid’s “Run Boy Run,” then challenge the artists of Dallas’ own Rhythmic Souls Tap Company in a brief Riverdance-style tap/Irish battle.
Moving to Spain, Antonio Arrebola (Dallas Flamenco Festival headliner) delivers a fiery, passionate flamenco absent of any music, outside of his own feet and hands. Lightening-fast footwork and perfectly timed dramatic pauses make this performance the most intense of the evening.
In keeping with the Latin theme, Edgar Galvan (guest artist with Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklórico) and his partner execute a Folkloórico dance from the Veracruz region. The rapid percussive footwork resembles flamenco, since the Eastern coastal region of Mexico was heavily influenced by the Spanish.
Keith Terry’s first act of the evening showcases body percussion (what he calls “the world’s oldest instrument”), parts of which students recognize from his sessions, but the exhilarating part comes when he leads the audience in call-and-response rhythmic clapping and even directs then in an “orchestra” of vocal noises. The second includes Fisher on bass as they groove to a smooth rhythm and trade off in a cadenced conversation.
Our local professionals take the spotlight for their own piece with Shields, who also exchanges solos with Fisher. A traditional Copasetics chair dance—the same from Dallas DanceFest—opens the second act and keeps that connection with the past.
Josue Ramero and Shannon Jabczynski continue the nostalgic feel with a Lindy hop. It’s an interesting inclusion, as the dancers make little audible sounds themselves, but tap did not grow up in a bubble so it’s only appropriate that a walk through the pages of history include some of the dance’s influences.
And let’s not forget Broadway’s significance. The Book of Mormon cast member and Dallas native C.K. Edwards sings and dances with his brother Alex with maneuvers and exuberance evocative of the Nicholas Brothers.
The future of the art form lies with those who respect its roots yet continue to breathe new life into it. While all the artists on stage strive towards that, certain performances especially display it. Chloe Arnold and Sarah Reich strut their stuff on stage as two powerhouse women with different styles. Arnold demonstrates a funky, sexy flair, while the petite Reich explodes as a spunky firecracker.
Justin Lewis exhibits quite a different tone than the previous performances. While tap has its beginnings in entertainment, it’s also just as expressive as other art forms. Lewis bares his soul as he dances to Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One.” While it lacks the flashy delight of other pieces, the authenticity of his movement keeps the audience glued to his every step.
The show closes with a short performance from the Rhythmic Souls Youth Residency dancers and a final Shim-Sham with the cast. The performance runs a tad long, and some of the segments by the headlining faculty seem to be geared towards the patrons who had been in class with them that weekend.
Overall, though, it’s an exhilarating sampling of movement and sound that celebrates the various expressions of rhythm.