Saturday October 20 12:41 pm

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

"Sweet Tap Chicago" - a Musical Tap Tribute to Chicago

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Chicago Tap Theatre is rapidly becoming one of my favorite dance companies in Chicago, so I make sure that the company stays on my radar. By the way, CTT’s rhythm tap is definitely not the tap you’ll see/hear in a Broadway musical like “42nd Street”. The dancers’ shoes are oxford style rather than Mary Jane, which look and sound a lot like the shoes Irish dancers wear, but without the reinforced toes.

I was amazed and awed by their beautiful, amazingly creative tap opera, “Time Steps”. Their fantastical science fiction tap opera, “Changes”, felt like a time” warp, flashing me back to Flash Gordon, my favorite TV space hero on TV, traveling through the galaxy in his spaceship, fighting cosmic villains. Mark Yonally’s ingenious choreography used tap shoes to tell the story in both.

Last year, I was wowed by “Liaison”, an international exploration of tap dance, in which Chicago Tap Company performed with Tap Olé (Barcelona, Spain) and Tapage (Toulouse, France) here in Chicago, and later in Toulouse and Barcelona.

“This is a special one-of-a-kind dance concert that brings us full-circle as a company.” CTT founder, Mark Yonally said. “When I started CTT, part of the mission was to take tap out of the jazz club and put it on the concert stage and in that process embrace tap as a theatrical art form,” he continued. “SO, that brings us to today. In all of our years, CTT had never produced a show in a real music venue.” He added, “…here we are, celebrating the contributions that Chicago musicians have made to the broader cultural landscape, and doing it with one of the hottest bands we’ve ever assembled.”

The choreography, everything from a classic tap routine to ‘improvography’, focused on tap as a musical form, sometimes as another percussion instrument. The show began with a light and cheerful routine to Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park” and ended with the cast and audience belting out “Sweet Home Chicago. The music, everything from a Sinatra classic to a Kanye West rap, was about Chicago and/or written/recorded by people from Chicago.

The ensemble, led by Yonally, includes his wife, Jennifer Pfaff Yonally, Kirsten Uttich, Isaac Stauffer, Aimee Chase, Sara Anderson, Emily Broeker, Bailey Caves, Anabel Watson and Chris Matthews.

Kurt Schweitz led the Sweet Tap Chicago Band with Bob Parlier, Corbin Andrick and Cole DeGenova, with singers JC Brooks and Taylor Mallory.

Some highlights:
• Mark and Jennifer Yonally dancing ala Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers to an arrangement of “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)”
• A slower bluesy tap number to Muddy Waters’ hit, “I’ve Got My Mojo Working”
• Tap as an instrument in Taylor Mallory’s smooth mash-up of Curtis Mayfield’s punk, “Move On Up” and Kanye West’s rap in “Touch the Sky”
• “Tapped for the Very First Time”, performed to Madonna’s “Get Into the Groove”, a preview of CTT’s June show

Next up for Chicago Tap Theatre, “Tapped for the Very First Time”, presented in partnership with the Athenaeum Theatre, with Mattrick Swayze as host; and the vocal contributions of the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. Performances June 23rd and June 29th at 7:30 pm; tickets range from $24-$44. FYI www.chicagotaptheatre.com/ctt_shows/tapped/.