The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 23, 2009

Tip-top tap

Tribute to elite dancers will waltz into arts center


By TOM LAVIS

TLAVIS@TRIBDEM.COM

Gregory Hines was only 57 when he died in 2003, but he was considered his generation’s greatest tap dancer.

Hines, as well as other celebrated tappers, will be in the spotlight as some of nation’s top dancers from Philadelphia-based Dance Celebration perform “Thank You, Gregory: A Tribute to the Legends of Tap” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.

The show is part of a 14-venue national tour that also includes stops in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire and New York.

The all-star cast of eight hoofers features Chloe Arnold, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Joseph Webb, live and recorded music, and stunning, jaw-dropping film projections showing a selection of legendary tappers at their best.

Dance Affiliates producer Randy Swartz, said the show pays homage to tap’s leading ambassador and the great legends who preceded Hines.

Hines, a Tony Award-winning actor, parlayed his dance success into a film and television career.

The show salutes tap titans Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, John Bubbles, the Nicholas Brothers, “Honi” Coles, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Roy Bolger, Donald O’Connor, Dr. Jimmy Slyde and the Copasetics, as well as tap’s leading ladies who redefined the art form and influenced a new generation of tappers.

“It’s an eclectic group of dancers who represent different styles of tap across the spectrum,” Swartz said. “You have those who improvised, those who were athletic and those who displayed a style and grace that were unmatched.”

It’s also a celebration of amazingly varied, soul-stirring rhythm.

“The golden age of tap dancing occurred in the time of vaudeville, Hollywood musicals and the Harlem nightclub circuit,” Swartz said. “We could have honored more people in this fast-paced show that features from 17 to 20 segments, if we could have found the right dancers to represent other greats such as Sammy Davis Jr. or James Cagney.”

Clips of live performance and film excerpts showcase the elegant, highly choreographed, smooth style of Astaire, Coles and Slyde, the athleticism of the Nicholas Brothers, the eccentric creations of O’Connor and Bolger, and the pervasive percussive rhythms of Bojangles, Bubbles, Brown, Hines and today’s pre-eminent tappers.

Ensemble selections include the classic tap favorites – Shim Sham Shimmy, Chairdance, the Coles Stroll, a rollerskating spoof with vocals and ukuleles, and a tap interpretation of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”

The young dancers do all the steps of their forebearers but add a little rap and a bit of attitude that is strictly 21st century.

Leading the troupe of dancers is Webb, an award-winning actor and dancer of Broadway’s “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk,” who performs solo tributes to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Peg Leg Bates and Gregory Hines.

Arnold (a protege of Debbie Allen), is dance captain/choreographer.

Sumbry-Edwards (captain/principal dancer for “Bring in Da’Noise, Bring in Da’Funk”) is a soloist for the “Hoofers Line.”

“People are going to see the next generation of great tappers, and it promises to be a fun and entertaining evening,” Swartz said.

Michael Bodolosky, Pasquerilla arts center executive director, said the tour is made possible by a grant from Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tickets are available by calling 269-7200 or (800) 846-2787 or on the Web at www.upjarts.com.

Tickets are $10, $26 and $28.