Like a whole month ago I took you on a bike tour of my neighborhood and promised to share the rest of that day. Well, I had a date with my wife that night to see Chicago Tap Theatre’s next production – a one night showing of new stuff called Beyond Blue – and I proposed we make it a bike date. She donned her bike skirt, I rolled up the cuffs of my fancy goin’ out jeans like a true bike geek, we pumped up the tires and hit the bike lane. I was happy she agreed since I nearly killed her on our last bike outing, but her bruises were nearly gone and apparently her memory short.
Our first stop was for dinner at The Art of Pizza, as we obviously had to carbo load for the 3-1/2 mile commute home. Besides having awesome pizza, Art scores by serving it up by the slice, including stuffed. Which means no waiting 45 minutes, and I can carnivore my ass off while the Mrs. veges out.
This time CTT was on the main stage at the Athenaeum Theatre, which is still pretty intimate without a bad seat in the house. Except the one behind me, as I refused to take off my helmet (helmet hair, y’know) which is typically adorned with peacock feathers. Unlike their previous tap dance operas, this was a pure dance show.
Here are my impressions of each piece (please remember I am not a dancer, tap or otherwise, but just a dunderheaded fan):
The piece was included after it won a contest funded by a grant from the Saints Foundation. I don’t think they’re related to the New Orleans Saints because this piece seemed to have nothing to do with football. There was a lot of white color, several ramps set up like a mini skateboard park, and a sheet hanging on a cross. There was dancing, but everyone seemed to get pissed off whenever someone went to play with the sheet. This was too much symbolism or interpretation for my obtuse head, and I feared I would be lost for the evening. It’s much easier to follow superheroes and fairy tale characters.
Same but Different
Okay, this one consisted of four dancers knocking out some decent steps. After the show, the Mrs. asked if I knew why it was titled as such. Of course, I did. This was a statement of how all of us in the world are different, but really the same because dance is common to all cultures except cultures with those religious sects that forbid dancing. You know, teaching the world to sing, buying the world a Coke kind of thing. Everybody getting’ footloose. Wrong. Damn CTT set me up looking for symbolism and stuff, when the Mrs. informed me the dancers were doing the same rhythms but using different steps. Or something like that. I clearly suck at this game.
Next up, the CTT artistic director Mark did some solo stuff accompanied by a banjo player. The banjo player wasn’t as funny Steve Martin, but the tap dancing was way better than Steve Martin’s happy feet.
I thought this one might be inspired by Beth Hart’s song By Her. I don’t think it was, but I still remember liking it. Maybe because it reminded me of Beth Hart. I should give her a call. She seems to be spending way too much time in Europe and I’m kind of getting annoyed with her. This piece obviously brought out a lot of emotion from within.
The banjo guy came out again and had a little hoe-down with three guys from the company. It was like The Devil Went Down to Georgia, except with tap shoes instead of fiddles. I’m happy to report the devil didn’t steal no souls that night.
The girls took over again and to be honest I’m getting some of these confused. It was over a month ago, so give me a break. I do have some notes that say I liked the choreography. Hey, this ain’t the New York Times.
The banjo player must have taken offense to my Steve Martin remark, because the next interlude was Mark doing some solo stuff accompanied by a local slam poet. I finally removed my peacock feather helmet and replaced it with the beret I keep in my back pocket for such occasions. I snapped my approval but the usher did not take kindly to my clove cigarette.
I think most of the company came out for this one, all dressed up like the bad businessman from Mannix. The piece included props such as business cards and newspapers to show that business sucks and we should all be tap dancers. The less people working on CDOs and other crap like that, the better. All I know is that the taxpayers never had to bail out a tap company.
Speaking of which, go make a donation to the company. I enjoy them and if you’re reading this blog it’s your turn to subsidize my entertainment. Thank you.
The second half kicked off with Siren’s Song, featuring Mark and Kendra. They rock. As long as they’re dancing with CTT, I’ll show up. The same way I’ll keep buying Lucky Charms as long as it continues to be filled with pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars and green clovers.
Mark came back out to dance to some slam poetry about a street musician, and again the usher made me snuff out my clove cigarette. The beret stayed.
A large wooden box was the centerpiece of this one. The girls all hung out around, in and on the box. Then they hit the box. Then they came out of the box and then went back in the box and then got back on the box and hit it some more while this was all going on. This was obviously all a metaphor for the paradigm shift in gender identity and the effects on self-actualization and resulting catharsis within a controlled environment with subthemes addressing the increasing prevalence of agoraphobia in affluent communities of certain Canadian provinces. I think. I’m open to alternative hypotheses. Regardless, I enjoyed this one.
The banjo guy got over whatever was bugging him and came back to accompany Mark. It was swell having him back. I missed him.
This was aptly named, as the dance included tapping each other’s shoes. I get the feeling that would be like trying to give a quarterback a manicure during a two-minute drill. Sorry about the football reference, but I’m bitter about that Saints contest not having anything to do with football. Despite the lack of blocking and tackling I liked this one a lot, but would have like to have seen it on a smaller stage.
If you’re still with me on this post, I’m guessing that you must be a member of CTT. Hope my review of the previous pieces didn’t piss you off too much. Because I really did enjoy the show, but you totally knocked my socks off with this one. Seriously. I don’t know Brenda Bufalino and I don’t know who to thank more – her for choreographing something like that or you guys for nailing it. Aurally it was rocking, even to an untrained tap ear like myself. Visually, I had convinced myself that there was no way that chaos was choreographed. When it kicked in toward the end it looked like moths in the light of a streetlamp. Except the moths were flying turtles. Not slow turtles like in the Comcast commercial, but maybe unusually fast turtles named Snappy. Eventually I fell entranced into the rhythm and was sure that I could slip into the mix without anyone noticing. Clearly I’m a moron. There are some outstanding dancers in the company and I like watching them rock out on their own, but when the ensemble is firing on all cylinders like this one it doesn’t compare to anything else I’ve seen. Well, maybe those OK Go! videos. Keep practicing - you'll get there. But I digress.
Keep up the good work boys and girls. If need any help with promo materials, please don’t hesitate to ask.
I was fortunate to catch Flying Turtles a couple weeks later as part of a free show downtown - there's a shaky video here that gives you a feel for the piece.