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DANCE REVIEW: THRUST!
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2016-08-23

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Choreographers: Tristan Bruns, Kate O'Hanlon, Ian Berg and others. At: Tapman Productions at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 773-327-5252 or TapmanProductions.com; $20. Runs through: Aug. 28

Tapman Productions' modern and tap dance revue THRUST! is named for, and clearly inspired by its venue: The Thrust space of Stage 773. If the house isn't packed after intermission, audiences are encouraged to switch auditorium sides to get a different perspective on the site-specific choreography.

But other than the performance space, THRUST! is much more of a mixed bag in terms of themed dance pieces that draw inspiration from multiple sources. Five very variable numbers comprise Act I by an array of choreographer/dancers, while Act II solely consists of six dancers in choreographer/performer Ian Berg's virtuosic tap piece From the Top.

Two numbers in Act I go for artsy overkill.

The opening number, Ich Ruff Zu Dir, features ninja mimes with knives and generic face masks who stalk tap-dancing city folk who are all only focused on color-changing LED-lit orbs in their hands. Co-choreographers Kate O'Hanlon and Tapman artistic director Tristan Bruns could be making a statement about the blinders people have on when they only pay attention to their smart phones instead of paying attention to malevolent and destructive forces out in the real world. It's an intriguing idea, but those killer ninja mimes come off as more comic than menacing.

The piece Close Every Door To Me is a ham-fisted and self-important attempt to comment on modern migrant crises around the world. Kate O'Hanlon and The Modern Marvels are listed as choreographers, and their decision to use three cumbersome portable doors as props ( not to mention the Andrew Lloyd Webber song from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat ) makes the whole number feel too literal and trivial.

The other three numbers in Act I are not nearly so preachy, and therefore more comfortably dance-oriented in Spanish flamenco or modern styles. Latin Flair choreographed by O'Hanlon and Bruns with Jessica Williams and Gloria Mwez enjoyably features a mix of balletic and percussive moves. Bruns' piece The Capella ( featuring a spinning rose-window gobo effect ) and his collaboration with O'Hanlon on the show's title number show how tap and modern styles can comfortably co-exist to give an impression of hectic urban life.

As the evening's closer, Berg's From the Top is pure fancy tap footwork bliss, even when you fear the dancers might accidentally slip off the occasionally wobbly stage. Berg draws from a number of music styles to showcase the diverse dancing strengths of the six-member ensemble, which features sophisticated tapping turns from Bruns, Star Dixon, Ayan Imai-Hall, April Nieves, Jumaane Taylor and Berg himself.

Although From the Top's conclusion mostly focusing on Berg instead of the whole ensemble is a bit of a staging whimper, the rest wows with its full-blooded and groovy tap work.


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