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« San Andreas, Aloha, Saint Laurent, When Marnie Was There, Sunshine Superman, Human Centipede III & The Chambermaid A New Home for ACRE: Interview with Emily Green »

Dance Mon Jun 01 2015

Tapman Productions Brings Song and Dance Fun With La Raison d'Être

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The Tapman Productions La Raison d'Être, in a word, is fun. The show by the Chicago tap company features a surprising mix of music, singing, spoken word and dancing, making the feel more musical theater than strictly dance show. The easy-to-follow plot line and mix of dance and musical styles, along with a fairly short run time, keeps the audience engaged.

Was the execution expert and seamless? No. But I respect the dedication to the vision and the creativity involved in putting all of the pieces together.

The story follows the employees, patrons, and the owner and his wife of a Chicago night club called La Raison d'Être. Javier Villamil's maître d' narrates--often through song--as the story unfolds over one night.

Choreographed by Artistic Director Tristan Bruns, Mike Ford, Kate O'Hanlon and Javier Villamil, there were moments when blending one man's singing to a single guitar and the rhythm created by three tappers worked. It felt unique and almost poignant. The tappers ceased being dancers and became part of the song, pulling off at times what seemed liked great drum solos. The tap choreography was skillfully woven into the songs through intricate patterns and clean, sharp taps.

There were other times, such as pairing tap with a slower song during an emotional moment of the story, where it just seemed overwrought.

While some dancers fully committed to their roles--namely the maître d', the owner and his wife, others had barely any facial expression, appearing to be rehearsing on their own rather than performing in front of an audience.

For the most part, the tappers sounded great. They had musicality and precision, enhancing the songs and executing some tricky and quick footwork. There was a moment near the end, during a full group number, when the club owner, portrayed by Tristan Bruns, seemed completely lost and engaged in the movement. You could feel his commitment and energy, and it was wonderful.

The mixing of tap dance with modern dance (although calling it modern is a fairly large stretch) left me unsatisfied. At times, the so-called modern dancers performed alone, at other times they danced to the sound of the tappers as they all took the stage together.

The modern dancing was amateurish and did not seem quite ready for a professional stage. The only dancer who seemed truly comfortable with the style was the owner's wife, danced by Kate O'Hanlon. During one piece, two dancers--the club owner's wife and his employee she is having an affair with--danced with a large stability ball, which didn't add much but awkwardness to the movement.

While I love the idea of mixing the two dance styles by setting modern choreography to tap choreography, and while I greatly respect the vision, I was left wishing the show had featured tap, and only tap, dancing.

The bottom line is La Raison d'Être is entertaining. It's musical theater with tap as a major player on the soundtrack, pulled off with courage and dedication. If you're looking for a fun, unique and musical way to spend a little more than an hour, this show is well worth your time.

La Raison d'Être is the second production of 2015 for the newly formed Chicago tap company. The show runs through June 7 at the Athenaeum Theatre. For tickets, visit www.athenaeumtheatre.org. For more information on Tapman Productions, visit www.tapmanproductions.com.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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