Artistic Director Mark Yonally and the Chicago Tap Theatre presented Tidings of Tap! at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts on December 9, 2018 in celebration of winter and the holiday season. This is Chicago Tap Theatre’s sixteenth year and, in that time, it has built a large number of loyal followers. I think people get “hooked”. One woman said this was the eighth time she has attended, another her second time. It was my third time.
Tidings of Tap! was choreographed by Yonally, Kirsten Uttich, Richard Ashworth and Caleb Teicher. Brimming with energy and talent this production celebrated Christmas, Chanukah, New Year’s and the winter season. “This year we are structuring the show around the holiday season in a much more overt way. Beginning with that first blinding snowstorm, continuing into the warmth of Chanukah, the spirit of Christmas and the sheer joy of New Year’s Eve,” said Yonally. “Audiences will also get to see more of the amazing acrobatic skills of Dasha, who is one of the top-ranked Rhythmic Gymnasts in the country. This year they will get to see her use all of her skills in helping tell the story and engage the audience, young and old alike,” concluded Yonally. The auditorium seemed to be filled and there were children, many of them quite young and they must have been captivated because the music and dancing continued without disturbance – no crying, no noise.
I have to say that tap has not always been the form of dance that I most enjoy but I do love Chicago Tap Theatre and especially Mark Yonally’s choreography. This may be because Chicago Tap Theatre prides itself on breaking the mold of traditional tap dance. It is the same with holiday entertainment. “Dance has the ability to bridge gaps and bring people together which is especially important at this time of year,” said Yonally. “CTT is excited to return with this holiday production, as it has become one of our favorite things seeing familiar faces and families attending year after year celebrating their holidays with us. This year audiences will feel the magic of the Holidays more than ever in Tidings’ home at the North Shore Center.”
I commented to the woman seated next me that I love the live music. CTT performs exclusively with live music provided by some of Chicago’s finest musicians playing everything from Duke Ellington to David Bowie and many artists in between. CTT has gained a loyal and sizable following in Chicago, which is evident at their performances. The group tours both nationally and internationally. They have pioneered the “tap opera” format, which tells stories with compelling characters and intriguing plots, using the language of tap dance, live music and narration to move Chicago audiences for over 16 years.
Returning dancers for Tidings of Tap! include Mark Yonally, Kirsten Uttich, Jennifer Yonally,Dasha Merkulov, Aimee Chause, Isacc Stauffer, Anabel Watson, Chris Matthews, Bailey Cavesand Sarah Owens. New to the ensemble this year are Sterling Harris, Case Prime, HeatherLatakas, and Molly Smith.
The artistic team includes Mark Yonally (choreographer), Kirsten Uttich (choreographer), KurtSchweitz (music director), Rich Ashworth (choreographer), Valerie Lussac (choreographer) and Caleb Teicher (choreographer).
I think that it is fun to see the changes that take place from one year to the next. Dasha is a wonderful addition to the program moving the action forward and demonstrating grace and beauty in movement. Her lyrical movements are a perfect contrast to the percussive aspect of tap. I was utterly engrossed during the Chanukah section as the four men exuded the spirit of the holiday. The Christmas section was much less vigorous, but lovely.
The projections, costumes and live musicians make this a special event. Come next year and you will surely leave with a smile as did this year’s audience.
More information, go to the ChicagoTapTheatre website