By Jonathan Abarbanel
Pictured Chicago Tap Theatre's Changes: A Science Fiction Tap Opera. Imagine Tap, including dancing Chefs and Derick K. Grant (top).
It's going to be a very percussive summer for dance in Chicago with a series of tap-related events throughout July and August, among them Imagine Tap ( July 11-Aug. 6 ) , yet another return visit by the pseudo-blue-collar footbangers of Stomp ( July 18-July 30 ) and the Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Rhythm World festival ( July 24-Aug. 6 ) featuring appearances by Savion Glover ( Aug. 4-6 ) .
But the charge of the cleat-footed begins with Changes: A Science Fiction Tap Opera, presented by Chicago Tap Theatre July 7-30, at the Athenaeum Theatre Studio 3, and danced to the music of David Bowie. Told through the medium of tap, Changes is a world premiere sci-fi story that starts with Bowie's 'Ground Control to Major Tom' and then rockets to an alien planet ruled by an egotistical leader. Major Tom foments an uprising among the downtrodden locals, for which he is thrown in a prison and tortured. Explains Chicago Tap Theatre artistic director Mark Yonally, 'While I didn't intentionally set out to create a show with political overtones, I think it's impossible not to be influenced by what's happening in our culture right now.' Yonally believes that delving into tap dance's conceptual and narrative possibilities remains relatively unexplored. 'When I founded the company I knew that audiences love being told a story and that tap dance could serve as a rich and dynamic way to propel a plot,' he says. Tickets and info: www.chicagotaptheatre.com or 312-902-1500.
Imagine Tap is the next percussion show in the lineup, playing the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, July 11-Aug. 6, and showcasing 16 of tap's leading dancers in styles ranging from Broadway to rhythm to hip-hop. Hey, there's even a female Jewish break-dancer, Ephrat 'Bounce' Asherie. The cast hails from across the country, and features several local dancers, among them 19-year-old Jumaane Taylor as well as Bril Barret and Tre Dumas of M.A.D.D Rhythms. This world premiere is a big show with scenic splendors, live vocalists, musicians and a DJ to back the dancers. Derick Grant is the artistic director/choreographer and Cari Shein is the producer of Imagine Tap, which has been workshopped and rehearsed in New York, and has hopes for a big national future. Tickets and info: 312-334-7777 or Ticketmaster.
Things will not be quite as thunderous June 23-25 at the Ruth Page Center, when Thodos Dance Chicago presents New Dances 2006, a program of 10 premiere dance works created by up-and-coming artists, among them several Thodos dancers and guest choreographers. The new pieces explore a myriad of themes from dreams and nightmares, to love and the blues. Works emerging from previous New Dances showcases—this year's is the sixth—have been produced by several major Chicago dance companies. The new pieces are the result of four months' work by each of the 10 choreographers. Now, in addition to facing the public, their work will be reviewed by a feedback panel of Chicago dance leaders from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Mad Shak Dance Company as well as independent dance artists. To share the discoveries of New Dances 2006, go to www.thodosdancechicago.org or call 312-266-6255.
A reminder: in a final fling celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Joffrey Ballet is presenting several free public performances this weekend in conjunction with the Grant Park Music Festival and the Grant Park Orchestra. They perform tonight and Friday ( June 14 and 16 ) at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday ( June 17 ) at 7:30 p.m. at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Works by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev are among those on the bill.