With light, loose, insouciant taping, the five dancers of the Jazz Tap Ensemble eased onto the stage of Marsee Auditorium at the South Bay Center for the Arts on Friday in "Opener," one of three new works introduced in a 13-part program.
The piece allowed dancers Lynn Dally, Sam Weber, Derick Grant, Lainie Manning and Dormeshia Sumbry easily to establish that company style, but also to have a moment or two each to break out with individual glosses. Nothing overbearing, but then self-promotion is not their style.
Still, the individuals could easily start challenging each other, as evidenced later in " 'Time Step' Improv," the second new piece. Here they took turns asking with their feet, "Can you do this?" as the rhythms got more and more complex, the solos turned into duets and a final grand walk-around, all to end with stop-on-a-dime precision.
With "Oleo," a new improvised solo, Weber, probably the most virtuosic dancer in the company, showed his mastery of dynamics (in finely controlled swelling and diminishing heeltaps), elegance both in carriage and in covering space, and capacity to create intricacy of rhythm in long sequences of steps, including some hingeless footwork.
Other pieces on the program included the affectionate five-part "Tribute" to tap dance in the movies, with Sumbry's particularly pleasing recreation of Bill Robinson's "Livin' in a Great Big Way"; artistic director and choreographer Dally's relaxed, fluent solo, "Moon and Sand"; and Weber and razzle-dazzle Grant's friendly face-off in contrasting styles in "Taxi."
Most of the dances tended to be a bit short and to share as much as possible the limelight with the talented, nonchalant on-stage musicians--Doug Walter (piano), Eric Ajaye (bass), Jerry Kalaf (drummer and Ensemble music director) and Stacy Rowles (trumpet and vocals).