At Tap City Festival, at Least the Shoes Are Polished
It was possible to get a little more of Ms. La Touche at an earlier Tap City event, “Tap Ellington,” at the Birdland Jazz Club on Sunday Mr. Pollak was there, too, but the main excitement was the house band, the Duke Ellington Center Big Band, playing all Ellington compositions. Every other number was a band feature — a frustrating choice since so many of the tunes called out to be danced. Yet most frustrating of all, besides poor sightlines, was the shamelessly slapdash, self-indulgent hosting by Mr. Waag and Mercedes Ellington. It should be good news for tap that this event is to become monthly, but only if standards are raised.
The good news, in fact, is that standards are higher elsewhere. From June 27 to 29, at Dizzy’s Club, the tap dancer Brinae Ali and the trumpeter Sean Jones presented “Dizzy Spellz,” a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie. An early excerpt from the show was a highlight of last year’s “Rhythm in Motion.” It now has an independent life, and the late set I caught on opening night was a blast.
Dancing on a small wooden platform, Ms. Ali, also known as Alexandria Bradley, was a bigger and more boisterous presence than anyone performing at Tap City this year. At the same time, though, she was completely in sync with a superb jazz quartet augmented by the inventive turntablist Wendel Patrick. This was a concert bursting with love, a reminder that the openhearted spirit Tap City often espouses is not incompatible with excellence.
It was a reminder, too, that the festival, as crucial as it remains, isn’t the only game in town. (Or in the country. The Chicago Human Rhythm Project is currently celebrating its 30th season.) Savion Glover, still the most famous hoofer, was recently back in New York — killing it in spare, improvisational sets at the Blue Note in late July and helming an absurd, embarrassingly ill-conceived show at the Joyce Theater last week.
Mr. Glover has appeared at the Joyce many times before, but the prevalence of tap in the upcoming fall season there is highly unusual, if not unprecedented — the best news in New York tap this year. In September, we’ll get Ayodele Casel, and in December, a double whammy of Dorrance Dance and “And Still You Must Swing,” an extraordinary show by Dormeshia (formerly credited as Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards), Derick K. Grant and Jason Samuels Smith. Altogether, that’s an amazing collection of the midcareer tap masters missing from Tap City. If they’ve graduated to larger and more prestigious stages, that’s a loss for the festival, but a truly encouraging sign of health for the art.