Chicago group reinvents classic tap

The Chicago Tap Theatre graced the Wadsworth Auditorium stage on Saturday Nov. 8, wowing the audience with innovative style and dynamic expertise. The company is devoted to preserving the tap dance style while simultaneously taking it to the next level of creativity. One of the ingenious aspects of CTT is its use of live music. The band consisted of three members who contributed with bass, piano, guitar, violin and vocals. Besides providing music for the dancing, the trio performed a variety of songs in between tap numbers.

“Same But Different” was a piece that epitomized the importance of sound in tap. All four company members were completely in sync with their sounds and rhythms, despite each dancer performing a different series of steps and movements. This dance proved that the same sounds could be produced from a variety of steps.

The duet between the two women of the CTT, Kirsten Uttich and Jennifer Pfaff Yonally, was one of the standout pieces. Titled “Thin Line,” the number mimicked the motions of walking on a tightrope. With the use of lighting and menacing-sounding music, the dancers exemplified balancing on a thin line while executing perfect taps.

The artistic director of the company Mark Yonally showcased his high level of tap excellence in his solo “Improvography.” The number was just what the title expresses—improvised choreography. Yonally impressed the audience with incredibly fast footwork and risky movements that came together to create a piece that did not appear improvised at all.

The company surprised audience members when dancer Rich Ashworth joined the band to demonstrate his beat boxing skills during “Too Good to Be True.” Ashworth laid down his microphone part way through the number so that he and Yonally could engage in a “tap battle.” The combination of the tap with the beat boxing demonstrated the importance of beat and rhythm in tap dance.

One of the most entrancing pieces from the night was the final number “Strobe.” This piece focused heavily on the idea of succession, with dancers joining into the movement one at a time. What caused this dance to be so successful was its subtle and understated attitude toward the complicated footwork. Mixed with bursts of energetic movement, this final piece earned CTT a standing ovation.

Although “Strobe” was the final number of the show, the performance was not over yet. The company officially ended the show with a traditional tap routine, the “Shim Sham.” CTT invited audience members to join them in the routine. This surprise ended the show in high spirits.

The Chicago Tap Theatre did exactly what it boasts––combining the traditions of tap dance with innovation and excitement.