Room was scarce at d.c. space, but sitting close to the old platform that served as the stage for Thursday's tap night, one saw those scarred veteran boards yield in the right way under the dancers' impact. The wood didn't bend too generously and then vibrate, but just enough to make stepping seem easy. As a sound box, too, this stage had the virtue of not muffling the music of even the lightest footfall.
Because of the stage, the program's five Washington soloists and Boston guest Joshua Hilberman were free to choose whether they would tap first and foremost for the audience's eyes or ears.
Charles Wyche was the least showy of the performers, yet he's very personable rhythmically. Dancing alone, he tended to be subtle, using such steps as crossovers, beats and toe stands for the musical variety they gave to toes-and-heel tapping. Teamed with Laurie Johnson, he seemed to let her set the pace and devoted himself to making the duet a high-precision piece of unison work.
Brian Donnelly showed even footwork under a slinky torso. His style might seem better suited to big production numbers than to solo recitals, except that his tapping was sometimes drowned out by music that was only moderately loud. Toni Lombre was the performer most conscious of tap's visual impact. Not only was she balletic in her upper body, but she chose some steps for how they looked and polished the appearance of those she'd selected for their sound.
Bakaari Wilder, dubbed "The Kid" by emcee Carol Vaughn, is torn two ways. As an artist he taps mostly for music's sake, but like many near-adolescents he's very concerned with how others see him -- and it shows. His imitations of tap headliners with whom he's starred is proof he has a keen eye.
Hilberman produced fine, clear sound whether dancing quickly or quite slowly. By just listening, one knew precisely what steps he performed. Of course, he enjoyed the flourishes of difficult moves and combinations, especially of a set of hops and beats done traveling backward. The effect, though, was as much that of a pianist embellishing finger and wrist action as it was choreographic.
For the finale the six featured performers were joined in a jamboree by tap dancers from the audience. Music for the performance was provided by a fine jazz quartet -- Benjamin Sands, Tim Jones, William Smith and Clifton Brockington.