Flash Review 2, 3-22: Tamango! (& Crue)
Urban Tap, and More, in the House at the Joyce
By Vanessa Manko
Copyright 2002 Vanessa Manko
NEW YORK -- Whatever one says about Urban Tap, there is no denying
the ambitious artistic vision of artistic director Tamango. "Full
Circle," receiving its New York premiere this week at the Joyce,
is a work that not only combines tap, break, capoeira, and African
dance, but also assimilates film and an abundance of musical sounds.
It is a far-reaching work and one in which the viewer will encounter
the riffs and scuffs of tap dance alongside the head-spins and other
acrobatics of break dance. In addition to the melange of dance styles,
Urban Tap serves up diverse musicians and vocalists hailing from
Brazil, Tunisia, Paris, Italy, Haiti, Philadelphia, and Columbia,
to name a few locales. And while "Full Circle" is an exploration
into rhythm, it is also a celebration of cultural diversity.
Musicians are grouped in a semi-circle, and a large screen is set as the
backdrop onto which various images are projected throughout the work.
Musicians enter one by one, each adding on a musical layer in what mounts
to an all-engulfing sound. Things quiet when Tamango enters and begins his
tapping. He is a fluid tap dancer, adding slides to the riffs, ball
changes and lightning fast shuffles, giving his dancing an ethereal
quality. What is so great about this kind of tap dancing is the complex
sounds created by simple moves. What ensues is a dialogue between the
dancer and the musicians; something akin to the call and recall of jazz,
where dancer and musician challenge each other rhythmically.
The breakdancing sections of this work were equally fun. The compact
James P. "Cricket" Colter and Ivan Mariquez appeared to have springs in the
places of joints as they bounced themselves, literally, off the floor and
into hand stands, back flips, and head spins. Sometimes it looks as if
they are moving backward and forward simultaneously, moving with a
remarkable ease and control. This is a technique they've mastered and one
feels confident in watching them pull out all their tricks.
One of the most exhilarating performances in "Full Circle" is
that of capoeira free stylist Cabello of Brazil. Cabello moves with
agility and grace through the sweeping kicks, handstands and continuous
flow of movement of capoeira. But Cabello is as strong as he is
agile. He manages to extend his body horizontally, with his entire weight
resting on two arms. Another worthwhile performance was given by tap
dancer Sheila Anozier. There is something about Anozier's style that is
hard to pin down. She has less grace as a tap dancer than Tamango, but
she offers such gumption, flare, and clear articulation that it makes
for a refreshing performance. Donning red tap shoes, she mesmerizes
rhythmic feats (no pun intended).
As with most overly ambitious works, there comes a moment where things
fall flat. Repetition ensues and some parts get rather murky and
unclear. When Tamango enters wearing an African mask, proceeds to
drop sand on the floor and tap around in it, things begin to seem
unarticulated and not well thought out. In short, the work could
have used some paring down. Additionally, Tamango's emceeing
interludes -- including instances in which he steps to the
microphone and urges New York City to "relax" and to "unfasten your
seat belts" -- could have been omitted. Watching the actual dancing
and listening to the music would have sufficed.
On top of the wide-ranging dance and music, filmic images project on
screen throughout the work. At times these images are overpowering
and too busy, with shots of cities, stills of dancers, and converging
images that look like Rorschach inkblots. But what is interesting is
the use of two cameras that capture the actual dancers on stage,
projecting them in what looks like daguerreotypes on screen. The
live dancing body is juxtaposed against the film image. It's an
intriguing effect because it seems to emphasize the immediacy of live
performance; the film image moves along with the live dancer, but is
caught in a sort of slow motion as if in
The evening also featured the haunting live vocals of international
pop star Amina
and Vishal Vaid in addition to a plethora of musicians including Daniel
Moreno, Fabio Morgera, Bonga (Gaston Jean-Baptiste) and Rufus Cappadocia.
"Full Circle" didn't leave anything out, which proved to be both its
strength and weakness. In short the viewer was brought "full circle" and
Tamango, Amina, and the rest of the Urban Tap Crue are in the
house at the
Joyce through March 29.