The American Tap Dance Foundation (ATDF) is an acclaimed non-profit organization “committed to establishing and legitimizing Tap Dance as a vital component of American Dance through creation, presentation, education, and preservation. Charles “Honi” Coles, Brenda Bufalino, and Tony Waag founded ATDF in 1986, and today, just 17 years young, the foundation organizes tap festivals, ensembles, concert performances, national tours, scholarships, awards ceremonies, and archives – in addition to their classes, workshops, and “tap talks” at the American Tap Dance Center.
While tap dance is considered an “American” style, ATDF highlights the international influences to tap and by tap through this year’s Tap City concert, “Tap Internationals: Global Rhythms.” The show was held on July 11th, 2013 at Symphony Space’s Peter Jay Sharp Theatre. The diverse program included artists and influences from Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Cuba, South Africa, North Africa, Canada, and the United States.
Claudia Rahardjanoto performed “Tembang Alit” which was not a soft shoe, but a gentle and incredibly controlled routine that drew the audience to the edge of their seats because of its grace and ease. She was followed by “Journey to the Soundscape” which featured Kazu Kumagai’s strident and aggressive tapping paired with electric guitar and bright red stage lights. Kumagai’s metallic stomps, stamps, and slaps were a stark contrast to Rahardjanoto’s warm, full sounds and gliding movements. These two performances illustrate the versatility of tap dance, both it’s infinite vocabulary and emotions experienced by the audience.
Tap is not simply a dance style, but a multidimensional art – aural, visual, and even sensual. Many of the numbers included complimentary instruments such as piano, bass, guitar, and violin. Nicholas Young and Susan Hebach choreographed dancers in body percussion (think “stepping” but less rigid).
ATDF’s own Brenda Bufalino – a silver-haired fiercely rhythmical hoofer – brought down the house with her song and dance solo. Her “Charade/West Coast Blues” paid tribute to classic clean and polished rhythms.
My favorite part of rhythm tap is watching not the dancers’ feet, but their upper bodies. When a group dances in unison, all the dancers perform the same steps with their feet, but their full bodies act and react differently to the movements. This is true for tap dance in general – there is a common “American” tap vocabulary, but how each dancer (or country) interprets that vocabulary shapes their tap.