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Dance Review

Performers Bring Youthful Vitality to Tap Tradition


Tap dance--like mom, apple pie and baseball--is strictly a home-grown American tradition. It made perfect sense, then, to kick off Dance 2K2, a celebration of National Dance Month, with this decidedly Yankee art form at the Los Angeles Theatre Center on Saturday.

The first in a series of eclectic dance performances, tap proved to be very much alive and well as a number of artists vamped, jumped and jived.

Delivering the goods with its usual panache, Jazz Tap Ensemble presented the Caravan Project, a group of hoofers, ages 12 to 19. Founded by Jazz Tap Ensemble artistic director Lynn Dally in 1991, and now under the ace leadership of Becky Twitchell, these dozen dancers represent the future of tap.

Notable for their virtuosity at the young ages of 14 and 15 were Melinda Sullivan and Joseph Wiggan, respectively. In "Twitchell Tacit," choreographed by the group's leader, the duo shuffled, beamed and let rip a tidal wave of riveting steps a cappella, while their improvised solos offered a glimpse of solid, polyrhythmic stepping.

The affable Channing Cook Holmes, a Jazz Tap Ensemble member known for quicksilver footwork, brought his group, Tappin' (featuring fellow ensemble member John Kloss, Jason Rodgers, Jason Samuels and Chance Taylor).

They roared through 10 numbers like bulls on the streets of Pamplona. Particularly mind-blowing: improvised solos by Rodgers and Samuels, whose feet seemed atomic, executing percussive blows that resonated with jackhammer force. Taylor, too, dove in with such abandon, his glasses flew off his head in "Twice the Tap," a number he choreographed and danced with Rodgers.

The roots of tap were on fine display as suit-clad veterans Chester Whitmore and Skip Cunningham moved with ease and grace.

Cunningham dispensed a bit of the old body-slapping hambone; Whitmore got down with bare feet and bottle caps, tapping up an old-fashioned storm before shuffling over freshly poured grains of sand.

Dance 2K2 continues with various performers Saturday and April 19 and 20 at 8 p.m.; April 21 at 3 p.m. at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (213) 485-1681. $10.

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