CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Tap at Illinois – a semesterlong celebration of tap dancing by Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the University of Illinois dance department and Lyric Theatre at Illinois – kicks off next week with a screening of the film “American Tap.” The screening is part of the dance department’s Flatlands Dance Film Festival.
“American Tap” looks at tap dancing as an American art form, tracing it from its origins through its heyday in the Big Band era to its current resurgence. It features many of the greatest tap dancers throughout history, including Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, The Copasetics, Gregory Hines, Savion Glover and Michelle Dorrance. Shown at 7 p.m. Jan. 16 at The Art Theater, 126 W. Church St., Champaign, the screening is free and open to the public.
“Tap dance holds a nostalgic value for many people who recognize it as America’s most popular art form during the golden age of movie musicals and vaudeville performances. It also has become linked with the youth culture of hip-hop because of Savion Glover’s popularity over the last 30 years,” said Rebecca Ferrell, the director of the Flatlands Dance Film Festival, and the director of public relations and engagement and a lecturer in the dance department.
Dorrance Dance will perform at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts this spring. The company is led by choreographer Michelle Dorrance, a MacArthur Fellowship recipient.
Courtesy Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
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Contemporary tap artists Glover and Dorrance are featured in the documentary, and both will perform at Krannert Center this semester. Glover will perform Jan. 26 with jazz drummer Marcus Gilmore.
“Savion Glover continues to reign as one of the greatest tap dancers of all time," said Bridget Lee-Calfas, the publicity director for Krannert Center. "After a prodigious start and a Broadway debut at age 10, Glover helped to bring tap back into popular culture through appearances on ‘Sesame Street,’ his two Tony Award-winning smash hits ‘Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk’ and ‘Shuffle Along,’ and choreography for the animated film, ‘Happy Feet.’”
Dorrance, a former member of STOMP and Savion’s company Ti Dii, is the founder and artistic director of Dorrance Dance. She and her company will perform three pieces on March 14: “Myelination,” an ensemble piece with original live music; the Bessie Award-winning “Three to One”; and “Jungle Blues,” with a score by Branford Marsalis.
“Michelle Dorrance is the first tap dancer to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and has quickly become one of the most sought-after choreographers of her generation. Her imaginative style upholds tap traditions while propelling the form forward rhythmically and technically with visually enticing performances,” Lee-Calfas said.
The dance department’s Studiodance I performances Feb. 28-March 2 will feature Charlie Maybee, a tap dancer, choreographer and graduate student in dance at Illinois. He’ll present his master’s thesis, “The Promise of Stormy Weather.” The performance will include four alumni of the dance department.
In April, Lyric Theatre at Illinois will present George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin’s Tony Award-winning musical “Crazy for You” – the show that spawned such memorable Gershwin tunes as “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Embraceable You” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.” The performances are April 25-28.