It’s time for tap to take its seat at the contemporary dance table, and it starts in Chilmark. Artists colony the Yard began its second annual Tap the Yard festival on Thursday night, July 25, bringing together a host of rhythm and percussive-based dancers that go beyond the standard tap steps to include hiphop, Irish step dancing, body percussion and modern dance. The festival continues through the week, ending on Saturday, August 3.
“In each week you get a range across the spectrum of varied approaches,” David Parker, co-curator of the festival and choreographer of the Bang Group said. “The fact that there are so many of them is a sign of how healthy the art form is right now.”
Mr. Parker will be showing new work created at the Yard over the past three weeks. The piece, which will eventually be a full cabaret show, is titled Unbridled and Groomed and works with body percussion and rhythm-oriented work. Scores from composers like Steve Reich have been translated into dances for the feet and body.
By bringing varied groups of rhythm-based dancers together, Mr. Parker said it allows them collectively as a community to question the art form.
“We can see each other work in that context, ask each other questions, gain ideas and inspire each other,” he said.
In addition to Mr. Parker’s work, the festival features “one of the best rhythm tappers around,” Jason Samuels Smith, a new tap great in the lineage of Savion Glover and Gregory Hines. He performs opposite Michelle Dorance, a rhythm tapper who has gained attention for experiment with different kinds of shoes. Or only socks or bare feet.
“She’s very interested in exploring the relationship between rhythm and space,” Mr. Parker said.
Hiphop artists the Wonder Twins return to the Yard, too. The pop and lockers from Boston worked with Island students over the winter and performed at last year’s festival.
“They are as articulate throughout their bodies rhythmically as if their entire bodies were tap shoes,” Mr. Parker said.
Then there’s the two-time winner of the World Irish Dance Championships, Timothy Kochka, and modern dance choreographer Christopher Caine.
“That is quite an experimental mixture of classical partnering and Irish step dancing,” Mr. Parker said. It also includes some a capella.
“It’s a braiding together of these disparate traditions.”
Dylan Baker, who dances with Mr. Parker, will perform his own “funky” rhythm tap work as well.
Camille A. Brown and Dancers make their Vineyard debut on Wednesday, followed by a benefit on Friday. Ms. Brown begins a three-year residency commitment with the Yard this summer. A former choreographer for Alvin Ailey, Ms. Brown’s work draws from minstrel shows.
“Rhythm is the number one driving force,” Mr. Parker said. “We wanted to bring in people like that with incredible rhythmic imaginations into festivals like this.”
Tap the Yard will play a part at the Yard’s annual benefit event on Friday night, August 2, with a barbecue at a private residence followed by a performance of a collection of festival participants at the Performing Arts Center at the high school. And then it’s time to bring out those tap shoes you have hidden away in the closet. Saturday night’s performance, also at the PAC, ends with a family tap jam on stage. All are welcome to participate.
For a complete schedule of Tap the Yard and tickets visit dancetheyard.org.