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Telling Stories Through Dance
by Andrew Davis

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TAPEPLAS, a contemporary percussive dance company from Barcelona, Spain, recently performed a program called 'BoomBach' at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, as part of a showcase hosted by The Chicago Human Rhythm Project. Before the performance, Windy City Times conducted an e-mail interview with TAPEPLAS choreographer/artistic director Sharon Lavi to find out more about this fascinating troupe.

Windy City Times: What does the name TAPEPLAS mean?

Sharon Lavi: In northern Spain, 'No me vengas con Peplas' means 'speak to the point, don't tell me stories … be direct.' A lot of times, tap is frontal and direct. Before founding TAPEPLAS, I grew up searching for an individual style of tap and dance where tap wasn't as direct or frontal. I looked for a versatile and abstract range of expressions, moods and stories.

When I arrived in Spain in 2001 and someone told me 'No me vengas con Peplas,' ( meaning 'speak to the point … don't tell me stories' ) I realized that my artistic intention was actually not to speak to the point and rather tell abstract stories, to tell abstract peplas. And so it was that when I founded this abstract tap storytelling company I called it Tap Peplas—TAPEPLAS.

TAPEPLAS today is the name of the company, of its members and of a new style, a new language.

WCT: What does TAPEPLAS offer that's unique?

SL: The TAPEPLAS musician-dancer aspires to widen his or her definition as a visual musician as much as possible. The TAPEPLAS language has primarily a musical aspect. We all define ourselves as musicians, but there's more; at the same time, we give much emphasis and importance to movement quality and stage design. These last two aspects tend to be not so popular among artists of the younger generations because they associate movement quality and design with stereotypical old-fashioned settings.

I obviously don't believe that, as a young tap dancer, I have to dance like they danced in the '30s and the '40s but I also don't think that contemporary tap dance has to be rough and urban. I think you can be cool and modern without being rough and urban. TAPEPLAS includes roughness and urbanity, but those are not the only components of feelings and expressions that are part of life today.

WCT: What is the auditioning process like? What does the troupe look for in getting new dancers?

SL: TAPEPLAS is a particular style and language. Even really professional tap dancers and musicians have to go through extensive processes in order to speak this language. We, therefore, prefer committed people to extraordinary performers. Ever since the beginning, TAPEPLAS included as part of its growth long-term training programs in Barcelona in which the company's future generations are shaped. However, we audition dancers and musicians constantly.

Everyone has to go through at least part of a training program in order to be selected. Training programs are always the best way to filter away egos, etc.

WCT: Tell me about 'BoomBach.' What will viewers see?

SL: BoomBach is an introduction to the TAPEPLAS language. The show is an encounter between TAPEPLAS 'speaking' performers and elements of music and light that bring new ideas, thoughts and emotions. A contemporary, visceral and 'eastern' setting encounters elements that are classical, cerebral and somewhat 'western' in definition. Boom stands for the light ( light boom ) and Bach stands for an emblematic musical piece which we use in the show. ( The rest of the music is created by Musical Director Yaron Engler. ) So, basically, it's an encounter between TAPEPLAS and BoomBach. There is a constant feeling of an abstract storyline behind it all without there being an actual script. All these elements serve as catalysts to the introduction of an original and versatile language—the language of TAPEPLAS.

WCT: What choreographers have influenced you and the group as a whole?

SL: I always say that the people with whom I work are those from whom I learn the most. The different creative partnerships I had are those that taught me the most. First it was Mandy Kol in Israel, with whom I grew together for years and with whom I created the piece to the Bach music. Later, it was my partner in the creation of TAPEPLAS, Yaron Engler.

However, I had the privilege to work and study with teachers, choreographers and directors who were crucial to my education and extremely influential in my human and artistic upbringing: Zvia Brumer, my teacher, director and first choreographer in Israel; Elida Geyra, the founder and artistic director of the National Israeli Young Choreographers' Festival; and Sarah Petronio, master tap artist.

WCT: What does Tapeplas hope to accomplish in the short and in the long terms?

SL: TAPEPLAS hopes to move people worldwide and to share its excitement for music and dance as much as possible. We'd like to be a project that grows because of internal belief and strength and would be honored to share it as an example of faith in one own's creativity.

WCT: What does dance mean to you?

SL: I can say that dance saved me. Ever since I found dance, it guided me and directed me in life. I followed dance to where and who I am.

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