Youth Tap Ensemble to perform at Carolina Theatre this weekend
How could you hear 38 tap dancers tapping? You could walk by the Carolina Theatre Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Or better yet, you could be in that theater when the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble performs their new show, “Listen In.”
Former ensemble members, Michelle Dorrance and Jason Janas, who are stars in the tap world, will appear as guest artists. Janas is on both programs while Dorrance appears on Sunday only.
As usual, senior ensemble members have planned the show.
It starts with “Listen In,” a number the five seniors choreographed and perform with four other ensemble members. They decided to perform without music. “Some rhythms can get lost in the music. We wanted to make it clear that tap is also music,” senior ensemble member Adriana Ogle said in a telephone interview.
Ogle, 17, a senior at Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh, also named two other dances as among her favorites in the show. She described the “Stair Dance,” choreographed by Steve Zee, as “very tricky and very athletic.” It was inspired by legendary tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s “Stair Dance.” Then, there’s “Do Your ‘Ting,” choreographed by Janas for the ensemble to the song of the same name by tap dancer Joseph Webb. “Don’t let nobody tell you you can’t do your thing’” is the way he [Janas] expresses it in the choreography,” Ogle said.
Of Janas as a dancer, Ogle said, “He’s very funky. He’s very honest in his performances. He’s musical. He really talks about making music with each tap …”
Janas will perform an improvisational piece in the show, he said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “Improvisation is a big part of being a dancer. It’s the best way to commune with my soul and with what’s on my mind. Whatever I’m feeling, you’re going to see it in my dance,” he said.
He’s going to decide on his music after he consults with the band that’s playing for the show, he added. Band members are Robbie Link, bass; Jim Crew, piano; and John Hanks, drums.
Janas also spoke of the musicality of tap dancing. “It’s a beautiful thing to make music with your feet. As a foot percussionist, you can definitely play,” he said.
Both dancers had high praise for Gene Medler, ensemble artistic director, who founded the ensemble in 1983.
“He always says, ‘Dance to express, not to impress,’” Ogle said. “He also encourages ensemble members to stay genuine in your art. Be dynamic and versatile in your abilities and see where your passion takes you,” she added.
“I think he’s the best teacher in the country – if not the world,” Janas said of Medler. “He has a really big heart. He’s not judgmental. He’s laid back.”
Even though Janas only spent one year (1998) in the ensemble, Medler has had a big influence on him and continues to support him, Janas said. So, Janas comes back to work with the ensemble and perform in the shows – even though the dancer is in much demand and performs all over the world. He just got back from Zurich, Switzerland, and Barcelona, Spain. “I would travel there [for the ensemble shows] if I was at the North Pole,” Janas said.
Ogle spent nine years taking tap with Medler and eight years in the ensemble. After high school, she’s heading for Boston University to focus on communications and business. She’d like to be a journalist, perhaps a dance writer, she said. But she plans to keep tap dancing for the same reason that first drew her to it. At age 3, while watching “Teletubbies” on TV, she saw a girl tap dancing. “I started running around the house in my mother’s dress shoes because they sounded loud,” Ogle said. It wasn’t long before her mother asked her if she wanted to take tap lessons.
“I started tap dancing because it made me happy. The tap community encourages self-expression. Everybody’s individuality is so welcomed and encouraged,” Ogle said.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble performs “Listen In.”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: The Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham.
TICKETS: www.ncyte.org or 919-560-3030.