Sweet Tap Chicago Review – A Great Ode to the City

Bailey Caves (dancer) and Kurt Schweitz (bass). Photo: Kristie Kahns

On Sunday I had the pleasure of seeing the Artistic Director Mark Yonally and Chicago Tap Theatre (CTT) performance of Sweet Tap Chicago at City Winery at 1200 W Randolph in Chicago. It was a great ode to the city of Chicago and great performance by the dancers and musicians.

Founded in 2002, Chicago Tap Theatre is a tap dance company that performs exclusively with live music that is provided by Chicago musicians  They have played “ everything from Duke Ellington to David Bowie and many artists in between.” With master teacher and performer Mark Yonally, CTT has gained a large following in Chicago and they also tour internationally.

Sara Anderson and JC Brooks. Photo: David Harmantas

Sweet Tap Chicago featured music arrangements by Kurt Schweitz, a live jazz quintet and featured rapper/singer/host Taylor Mallory and JC Brooks. The performance space at City Winery has dining seating, the audience sits at a table and are welcome to dine and drink before and as the show is going on. The downside of the seating arrangement for this performance was that one was not always able to see the dancers and tap steps, depending on where you were sitting. However, you could feel the energy of the dancers which included: Mark Yonally, Jennifer Yonally, Kirsten Uttich, Isaac Stauffer, Aimee Chase, Sara Anderson, Emily Broeker, Bailey Caves, Anabel Watson and Chris Matthews and musicians that made for a marvelous show.

Jennifer Yonally Photo: David Harmantas

At the start Taylor Mallory introduced himself as the night’s MC and gave a background of Chicago Tap Theatre and how it was celebrating its 15th anniversary. He gave the audience an opportunity to join in during the show, after each performance, Taylor gave a brief background and Chicago connection to the songs performed during the show. The audience were then instructed to say “Tap me in Taylor!” to move on to the next performance. The first number, Saturday in the Park, featured all the dancers in the show and used not only the stage but on the floor where the audience was. The rest of the set included songs by Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, Styx, Smashing Pumpkins, and Robert Johnson among others.

Taylor Mallory. Courtesy of Taylor Mallory

Artistic Director performed an improvised solo dance to Your Love, tapping to the music, sound and beat. He showed his skill and talent and the performance full of zest. In his Artistic Director note he writes “Around the age of 13 I discovered the rhythm tap world….the depth of the movement vocabulary, the treatment of tap as a primarily musical art form, and the sense of being part of a historically-important renaissance of this type of tap were all incredibly exciting to me.” Elsewhere, he notes that when he started Chicago Tap Theatre, “…part of the mission was to take tap out of the jazz club and put it on the concert stage and in that process embrace tap as a theatrical art form. “ He goes on to mention how CTT had never produced a show in a real music venue and in celebrating the 15th anniversary was the opportunity to do so.

Near the end of the show we we treated to a preview dance number Get into the Groove featuring JC Brooks  from their upcoming show, Tapped for the Very First Time, a celebration of Madonna music coming to Athenaeum Theatre June 23 and June 29 featuring the JC Brooks Band.

I recommend seeing a Chicago Tap Theatre show. Great dancers, musicians and performance showcasing a variety of music.

For more information on Chicago Tap Theatre and upcoming show visit chicagotaptheatre website . Visit City Winery for more information and shows.

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