Monday, August 23, 2010

Stepology - The Bay Area Rhythm Exchange

The Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA
August 20, 2010

Stepology's presentation of "The Bay Area Rhythm Exchange" celebrated the creme de la creme of today's professional tap dancers - Channing Cook Holmes, John Kloss, Mark Mendonca, Jason Rodgers, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Lukas Weiss.  Here was an infinite depth of talent displayed by true masters of this craft.  However, the more intriguing element of the performance was how it revealed their specific areas of tap expertise.

Mark Mendonca was definitely the best all-round technician.  His solos were phenomenal and his feet seemed to move at super human speed.  Particular highlights included: heel twists across the entire stage, a series of single and double grab-offs, inventive and unexpected stomp time sections, and a progression of single-wings that were simultaneous with a toe-stand turn.  John Kloss opened his dance with a fun a cappella sequence complete with body percussion.  This man is the king of the grapevine, transforming a very basic step with his incredible rhythmic variations.  Kloss was the most consistent with his sound; he could be at any spot on the stage and his taps were crystal clear.  Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards had the best articulation.  You could hear her attention to detail and precision in the 5-beat riffs, paddles and back walks.  Subtle differences were present in her every scrape, where the point of origin (the side, the toe or the heel) produced distinct pitches and unique timbres.  Jason Rodgers' tapping was fantastic, though it was his style that drew the eye.  Of all the soloists, he was the one who looked most like he was dancing.  Lukas Weiss won for best novelty combining tap and juggling and Channing Cook Holmes was the best surprise of the program: an amazing drummer who has equal skills as a rhythm tapper.

There were only two issues that kept this performance from perfection.  First, the audience needed to see more of the dancing.  Because the floor microphones were at the front of the stage, most of the choreography took place there.  This proximity made it possible to hear everything, but blocked visual access to the dancer's feet.  In fact, I would say that a good 50% of the tapping was masked and hidden.  Second, the inconsistent lighting was unfair to the performers.  The design itself was fine, it was the lighting board management that required more attention.  The blackout at the end of each solo was completely ill-timed.  Just as the dancers were acknowledging the amazing musicians (Channing Cook Holmes, Lamont Keller and Maya Kronfeld), the stage lights went out.  I know that tech-time can be tough with much to address in a short period but with a professional show, this kind of timing problem should have been fixed. 

Nonetheless, this yearly show is a must-see.        

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