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Dance Review : Jazz Tap At The Japan America

July 27, 1987|LEWIS SEGAL | Times Dance Writer

The locally based Jazz Tap Ensemble originally attracted notice both for reviving interest in the neglected rhythm-tap idiom and for enriching it with ideas about stage space, body shape and choreographic structure borrowed from modern dance.

Over the weekend, the popular company returned to Los Angeles in a stimulating program at the Japan America Theatre that displayed a wider range of dance influences and references than ever before. New members Terry Brock and Sam Weber not only brought elements of show dancing and ballet to their solos but endowed such familiar Jazz Tap trios as "Caravan" and "Jam With Honi" with novel stylistic emphases.

Technically proficient but insistently overingratiating in manner, Brock danced in ensembles as if determined not to attract special attention. In her "Lucky Southern" solo (choreographed by Lynn Dally), however, she played skillfully with variations in stance and timing, with switches from jazz to Latin rhythms, with contrasts between hard-tapping and no tapping at all.

With his distinctive classical turnout, polished turns and sharply defined arm positions, Weber danced brilliantly in the company staples but spliced so many flashy ballet steps into his solo choreographies that the priorities of rhythm-tap often disappeared.

In his "Italian Concerto, Third Movement," he alternated hard-sell ballet tricks and fitful tap attacks, proving versatility at the expense of coherence and musicality. (What in the Bach score could inspire anyone to ricochet between stylistic extremes?) However he triumphed in the improvisational, pure-tap "Just Foolin' Around," detonating sustained passages of the fastest, most intricate percussive footwork of the evening.

Original company member (and artistic director) Dally demonstrated great subtlety in the quiet opening to the "Embraceable You" section of her "Gershwin" suite, but tried for (and didn't quite bring off) defenseless despair in her "Round Midnight" solo from the collaborative "Monk Suite." Elsewhere, she danced with her familiar mock-tough breeziness.

Joining veteran Jazz Tap musicians Jeff Colella (piano), Eric von Essen (bass) and Jerry Kalaf (drums) for this engagement, trumpeter Stacy Rowles lavished her burnished tone and superb control on dance accompaniments plus several music-only selections, including a bluesy interpretation of Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays."

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