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Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011

'TAPtivating' Dance Performance

Milwaukee's Danceworks keeps alive the art of tap

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No ensemble in Milwaukee is more committed to tap as a living art form than Danceworks on Tap (DOT). The group's annual concert, this year titled TAPtivating, is appropriately the centerpiece of Danceworks' DanceLAB summer series of experiments.

"People put tap low in a hierarchy of dance forms," DOT Artistic Director Amy Brinkman-Sustache says. "It's newer; it evolved in the streets among people with no academic training, so it has less respect. But it can be everything that other dance forms can be—expressive, virtuosic, thought provoking. Like other disciplines, it takes years of training and consideration."

In recent summers, DOT has clarified and mashed up the Irish and African roots of American tap in collaborations with Rince Nia Academy of Irish Dance. According to Brinkman-Sustache, that focus risked becoming "too much of a good thing." This summer they're working in-house.

"In TAPtivating, we capture and fuse different dance forms," she says. "If collaborating with my colleagues was in some way easier, it also pushed me to do things I've never done or seen."

For example, a "conTAPorary dance" builds on the way taps naturally hit the floor while executing choreographer Liz Tesch's contemporary dance phrases. A ballet-tap fusion is upper-body ballet and tap from the thighs down. Other dances will grace the delicate a cappella singing of the Mil Town Treblemakers, match a racquetball game, and illuminate recorded conversations by office workers about colleagues.

TAPtivating
takes place 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12-13 and 4 p.m. Aug. 14 at Danceworks Studio Theatre, 1661 N. Water St.

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