The tap dance community frequently presents itself as one big all-of-a-kind family. Saturday evening's performance at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts was no exception. Tappers from Boston, New York and Philadelphia came to town at the behest of two of Washington's tap dance leaders--Nancy Newell and Yvonne Edwards--to teach and perform in the D.C. Metro Tap Festival.
In an evening of headliners, competition gave way to friendly encouragement, backed by whoops from the audience. Josh Hilberman warmed up the Joe Harris Trio, which accompanied most of the dancers throughout the evening, with "Toes and Heels." Hilberman worked hard to create a rhythmic banter with the trio during his improv solo. Then, in a soft-shoe number, he made the nearly impossible look easy with his light-footed stepping. Next came Barbara Duffy, whose compact tapping and speedy turns were the highlight of "Summertime."
Twenty-year veteran Dianne Walker likes to talk and tap, and her technique indicates the maturity and stability that come with experience. Her waltz offered syncopated interplay with the musical combo. Silver-haired LaVaughn Robinson has a knack for eliciting a multiplicity of sound from feet that appear to barely leave the ground. His a cappella "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was masterful.
It's easy to spot Brenda Bufalino's roots. One of the trailblazers in the jazz tap form, Bufalino makes full use of her body--arms, hips, shoulders and legs--in a showier form of tap. She also offered a throaty song, "You're My Everything," before her expansive soft-shoe to Ellington's "Sophisticated Ladies."
Lane Alexander had a great time with "Body Drumming" by starting flat on his back, pounding rhythms into the floor with various body parts. He has a knack for garnering audience participation and easily had the crowd clapping and stomping along. Baakari Wilder has been amazing Washington audiences for more than a decade, first as a gangly kid and now as a seasoned star. A founding member of the local children's ensemble Tappers With Attitude, Wilder fearlessly explores his own rhythmic style. Even in his solos Wilder has a partner; in "*!!?:?\\*," it's the floor. He has an edgy urban feel about his dancing, not unlike Savion Glover. Head down and shoulders slumped, Wilder plays off electric guitarist DaJando Smith's riffs with intense inner focus.
Mistress of ceremonies Newell invited the dancers to join together to close the program to the tap dancer's national anthem: the shim sham.