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Monday, May 27

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Dance Thu Jun 25 2015

One Night Only! World Premiere Production of Circo Tap at Athenaeum Theatre Saturday

By Jen Kraakevik


Photo by Josh Hawkins.

"Tap dancing with the finest live music you will find mixed in with the danger, excitement, and sexiness of the circus."

When I asked Mark Yonally, the artistic director of Chicago Tap Theatre, what Circo Tap would be about, in a few words, that was as concise as he could be. Chicago Tap Theatre (CTT) stages this exclusive, one-night only performance at the Athenaeum Theatre at 8pm Saturday. Their combination of tap dancing, circus arts, live music and narration brings an inspiring spotlight to the theater community. It presents tap dancers, acrobats, whip artists, clowns, tightrope walkers, stilt walkers, musicians and, Yonally says, "everything you wouldn't expect to see."

Yonally's vision for this performance began through his exposure three years ago to Circurious, where he was invited to perform as a tap-dancer. Circurious is an American circus that highlights jugglers, singers, dancers and contortionists through their tour around the United States. Their website describes it as "a heart-stopping, mind-boggling display of artistry and athleticism." With such inspiration as a performer, Yonally proceeded to produce a combination of what he knows with what he became inspired by: tap dancing with circus.

Yonally talked in our interview about his other inspiration, co-writer Marc Smith. After writing the initial piece Tightwire, Smith wanted to continue and finish the story of the characters introduced. Yonally's enthusiastic explanation of the previous story made me interested in seeing Circo Tap. Tightwire was a behind-the-scenes show, developing characters and presenting the storyline with narration. Circo Tap is a front-of-house story with the Ringmaster leading you through the performance. Circo Tap enhances the previous production and includes a special finale that will "take you through an extraordinary adventure."

Circo Tap is only being performed in Chicago, although the core group of Chicago Tap Theatre has been a part of a traveling tour. Their travels have allowed them to meet people who are equally passionate in spreading the arts and helping them implement their work as artists.

Collaboration is key for this performance to succeed. CTT has hired a rhythmic gymnast, found stilt performers from a local stilt dancing company, practiced with a live five-piece band and incorporated lighting and video production. Costume designer Emma Cullimore researched how to produce innovative stilt artist costumes and handmade all of the costumes for the production.

Yonally describes the incredible opportunity for the CTT artists to connect with the audience and engage each person individually. By tapping into the energy of the 30 to 40 artists involved in one production, Circo Tap will express joy, sadness, danger and love through its cast members' love of the arts. The live band, another performance in itself, carries you through the storyline lead by CTT Music Director Kurt Schewitz. Additional choreography by Rich Ashworth and Valerie Lussac will be featured.

The cast of Circo Tap includes Mark Yonally, Jennifer Pfaff Yonally, Kirsten Uttich, Jessica Williams, Sioned Papporotto, Isaac Stauffer, Aimee Chase, Johnny Huntoon and Marc Kelly Smith.

Chicago Tap Theatre began in 2002 as a dance company. Growing quickly and performing exclusively with live music, the theater company has expanded with tours nationally and internationally. Their pioneered format is called tap-opera, where the dancers tell a story with intriguing characters and fascinating plot lines. Their live music ranges from Duke Ellington's jazz to Davie Bowie's rock.

You can see Circo Tap at 8pm Saturday at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport. Tickets are $22-37 and can be bought online or by calling 773-935-6875.

Can't make it this Saturday? Chicago Tap Theatre (CTT) presents its next Chicago performance in December. The holiday show, incorporating winter, Hanukkah and Christmas pieces, tends to sell out every year. Visit in the fall for more information.

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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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