Growing up in Kansas, tapper Mark Yonally found his niche as a dancer by jamming with jazz musicians. His love for embodying live jazz music would become the foundation of Chicago Tap Theatre (CTT), a 13-year old tap company committed to original music and storytelling – a departure from traditional perceptions of tap dance. Where many tap companies view the form as a genre of music, opting for plain costumes and plotless soundscapes, Yonally is more interested in positioning tap as a choreographic form, using stagecraft and live music with tap dance to tell contemporary stories.
CTT brings holiday cheer to the intimate UIC Theater this weekend in the annual “Tidings of Tap!” Holiday Spectacular. The evening features two premieres alongside audience favorites such as CTT Alum Rich Ashworth’s acappella “12 Days of Christmas” and his lyrical “Winter Winds,” plus Yonally’s “Chanukah, oh Chanukah,” a rousing feat of athleticism for the company’s three men (Yonally, Isaac Stauffer, and new apprentice Aric Barrow). Yonally's piece de resistance is "Rest Ye, Man," his solo improvisation set to a jazz interpretation of "Oh Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
Long time company member and newly appointed Rehearsal Director Kirsten Uttich takes a maiden voyage into choreography with a trio for three women (Jennifer Yonally, Aimee Chase, and Sarah Owens) called “Sweet Swingin’ Drummers.” Uttich’s voice is distinct from Yonally's, who creates most of the dances on the program, with her sassy femininity shining through.
The usual suspects join the dancers to provide live music, with Kurt Schweitz, Anna Gillan and Arne Parrot joined by Annette and Kurt Bjorling, who together are the fabulous Klezmer duet Duo Controverso. Different dancer pairings and instrumentations, plus tons of costume changes, keep this all-tap program from feeling same-same, and Yonally's smart programming celebrates tap as a truly versatile concert dance form.
Parrot wrote the witty “Game of Dreidel,” a brand new rap and tap about the traditional Chanukah game. Set to a beat box rhythm, the cheeky “Dreidel” is pure fun, but positive messages are hidden in the text:
“Because although the game is simple, there’s so much of life inside. Some days you’re a winner, others days you take a ride. See all of us are spinning. Uncertain and adrift.
And in the end.
It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It’s who you play it with.”
Chicago Tap Theatre presents the 9th annual Tidings of Tap! Dec. 11-13 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Theater (1044 W. Harrison St.). Friday show is at 7:30pm, Saturday shows are 3 and 7:30pm, Sunday at 3pm only. Tickets are $23-35, available at the door or by calling 800-838-3006 or at www.chicagotaptheatre.com/tidingsoftap. An encore performance will take place at Moraine Valley College Dec. 19, 7:30pm in the Dorothy Menker Theater. For more information, visit https://www.morainevalley.edu/fpac/events/chicago-tap-theatre-in-tidings-of-tap/#sthash.ftkvK37U.dpuf