"Disruption" from jorsTAP
By Sid Smith
There has been something of a macho bent to the longtime tap revival, so influenced in its beginnings by Savion Glover, who brought such brash street cred to the art.
So it's intriguing and welcome that Kendra Jorstad, the veteran talent long associated with the Chicago Tap Theatre, is unveiling a new troupe, jorsTAP, an all-female ensemble and one distinguished by Jorstad's distinctly softer sensibility. During the first few numbers of "Disruption," the debut program jorsTAP performed over the weekend at Stage 773, some great women tappers of the 20th Century naturally came to mind--Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller and Ginger Rogers. At intermission, glancing deeper into the program, I saw that Jorstad and company were way ahead of me--they've christened their donor rankings with these very same women.
Oh, well, it only goes to reinforce the point, as does the welcome restraint, taste and grace that Jorstad approaches in her programming. Essentially, this is an effort to link intelligent contemporary music with smart, abstract tap. It's modest, as most new dance troupes are, with virtually a black box of a set and a six-member ensemble. (One of them, in the interests of full disclosure, is our own Carissa Johnson, program manager of this web site.) Even with an intermission, "Disruption" played only a bit over an hour.
But less can be more, and here it so proved. Jorstad goes in for straightforward pieces that gently hint at their meaning, suggesting conflicts and moods through attitudes and even subtle glances, rather than anything heavy-handed or overt. But her performers are capable and speedy, and she sets these energetic, lively and rhythmic works to melodic, tantalizing scores, by the likes of Psapp, Adele, the Civil Wars and the Swell Season. In a curtain speech, she also made clear she's interested in any and all interdisciplinary contributions, visual artistry included. "My Subconscious," a duet for two women whose glances and stances suggest they're in competition or something even deeper, was scored by Leslie Beukelman, a jazz musician who works here now but happened to grow up only 20 minutes from Jorstad's own rural upbringing.
The opening, "Click," has an air of wonder. "About Her," a trio, employs sultry indifference as its ambience. Never does "Disruption" go for the all-out solo extravaganza that typifies tap today and sometimes overwhelms it. This collection is balanced, in attack and composition, reveling in tap as an artistic pleasure and as a different way to explore a particular musical composition.
There were some enjoyable rhythmic explosions in "Sorrow," wherein three women toss cherry-red balloons despite a darkish, anxious atmosphere. Jessica Chapuis provided "On the Radio," a work as joyful as the sky-blue shirts the women wear in it, and Tristan Bruns choreographed "Peace in 5," which managed to include a brief, blink-and-you-miss-it twist on the limp in its aesthetics.
The finale, "Perception," a collaborative effort and Jorstad's personal favorite, she told us, is clever in its set-up, some women seen only via their feet, their bodies behind a black board, while others are seen from waste up, and they all keep switching places. It seemed the program's one off-note, not as funny as it should be and a little underwhelming for a finish.