Tap dance, like jazz, is a uniquely American art form born of the collision of African slaves and Irish immigrants in the ports of the Old South. Hand-in-hand, step-by-step, new Americans – whether they arrived here voluntarily or in chains – blended their rhythmic, musical dance traditions to form the clattering, dynamic style that has spanned centuries.
The Southwestern College dance department brought The California Rhythm Project, a tap dance company whose mission is to promote, preserve and develop tap dance and other rhythmic dance forms, for an evening of concussive, propulsive artistry. Each of the 12 performances took the audience around the world and through time.
Starting out with a touch of the Irish, five dancers rattled along to the fast-paced tempo as they locked arm-in-arm to “Rise and Shine Acapella.” It was a riff of “River Dance” on the Mississippi River.
“Crucial Country Breakdown” was an acknowledgement of tap’s African roots and the performers did the Mother Continent proud. Dancers displayed a combination of grace and power, thunder and gentle rain.
Best outfits award goes to the SWC Tap Ensemble for its “Log Cabin Blues” ensemble, a delight to the eye. Women in fitted black pants and sequined silver crop tops moved playfully while the men, dressed in tuxedos, followed along. Their performance was rough around the edges, but charming.
Mother and daughter Nancy Boskin-Mullen and Adi Mullen delivered the most emotional performance of the night. Tapping to a smooth piano accompaniment, they displayed a synchronized connection that was touching.
All members of The Rhythm Project and SWC’s Tap Ensemble came out for a thunderous finale to “Shim Sham.” An appreciative audience clapped their hands as the dancers clomped their feet. The California Rhythm Project tapped into something good.