Tappers With Attitude, and Skill to Burn

Members of the Tappers With Attitude Youth Ensemble, celebrating its 15th anniversary.
Members of the Tappers With Attitude Youth Ensemble, celebrating its 15th anniversary. (By Jeff Kenton -- Tappers With Attitude)
Monday, December 12, 2005

Tappers from 8 to 18 took the stage Saturday night at Dance Place to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Tappers With Attitude Youth Ensemble. The dancers, who make the Knock on Wood Tap Studio in Silver Spring their home, are divided into three performing groups based on age and ability -- the Junior Company, the Apprentice Company and the Core Company. All ages looked well rehearsed; the rhythms were crisp and clean. They also demonstrated an impressive memory for movement -- among the three companies, 22 pieces were performed during the 2 1/2 -hour concert. That's a lot of rhythm to remember.

Tappers With Attitude is a repertory troupe, with works by well-known tap artists as well as those from staff and students. One of the premieres on the program, "Taking a Chance on Love," was choreographed by Jeannie Hill of the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project and performed to music by Vernon Duke. Hill gave the Core Company dancers a challenge -- scat singing was part of the work. The dancers, set apart in three groups of two, began on an imagined Metro. As they jostled along, one dancer with headphones couldn't contain his groove and burst out with nonsense syllables sung to the beat. It was catching -- the others began to scat to the beat as well, each finding a dancing partner in the next person over.

The other premiere on the program was "Audrey," performed to music of the same name by Dave Brubeck, and choreographed by Ayodele Casel. The three male dancers in the piece, Jeffrey Williams, Justin Lewis and Adriel Williams, embodied the aesthetic of "cool" that tap is known for. It is an engaging juxtaposition -- feet and legs work overtime in contrast with an effortless upper body that is relaxed and light.

The Core Company has some dancers who really shine, including Anna Kielman, Treyvon Jackson and Toby Shepard. They will be losing seven members as high school seniors graduate, but fortunately, things look promising with up-and-coming talent Adriel Williams and an Apprentice Company that looks at ease onstage.

-- Kirsten Bodensteiner

© 2005 The Washington Post Company