When, at the Dance Exchange Saturday night, Leslie "Bubba" Gaines finished his spectacular tap specialty with a jump-rope, his feet snaking in and out of the loops with a split-second crackle that had the audience gasping, he held up a hand to cut off the prolonged fusillade of applause and said, "Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen... but you ain't seen nothin' yet!"
Though this was more than halfway through the show, "Shoot Me While I'm Happy: An Evening of Jazz Tap Dancing," Gains was right, in a sense. It was an evening that kept building from sensation to sensation, until the three pairs of slicing feet began to sound like supersonic castanets.
Making up the threesome were Gaines (who's appeared internationally from the Cotton Club to the Folies Bergeres and was an original member of the Three Dukes), Charles "Cookie" Cook (of the Cook and Brown team, who toured with Ellington and Basie and danced in Broadway's "Kiss Me Kate") and Jane Goldberg (the catalyst and producer of the evening, a 30-year-old native Washingtonian with a background in modern dance and journalism who's devoted her last half-decade to a contemporary renaissance of jazz tap). At the piano was Jim Roberts, evoking vanished vaudevillian glories with insouciant flair.
Between them -- Goldberg with her daffy charm and erratic but inventive facility; Bubba, with his wicked brilliance and flash: and Cookie, full of sly nonchalance and insinuating rhythm -- they gave us a birds-eye tour of the tap spectrum, from time-steps and a jitterburg waltz to Bubba's rope act to Cookie's tribute to Hanya Holm and his and dancing number. Among other things, it was a reminder of a kink of stage smarts and red-hot professionalism which have no real counterparts in today's entertainment.