By: Cailey Griffin
The Chicago Human Rhythm Tap Fest enlightened Navy Pier when it used dance as a platform for impactful storytelling. The Chicago Human Rhythm Tap Fest took place on Wednesday July 28, 2018 from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm in Polk Brothers Park at Navy Pier. The Navy Pier performance is apart of Rhythm World 28 performance series. Rhythm World is an annual Chicago festival that highlights percussive and tap dance styles. The Chicago Tap website describes the festival in saying, “for one week each summer, many of the world’s finest tap and percussive dance artists and teachers work with over 300 students through classes, performances, and more.” The 2018 Performance series began the evening of Monday July 16th and will end Sunday July 21st. The Navy Pier Performance was free to the public and included “performances ranging from students at the festival, local Chicago dancers, and the master faculty.”
The Navy Pier performance attracted an extremely diverse audience in terms of age, ethnicity, and experience with the dancing style of tap. Even with all the diversity amongst the audience members, they all had a general sense of appreciation and drive to be enlightened.
The performance opened with introductions and shortly after a performance by the M.A.D.D. Rhythms Bronzeville Tap Dancers team. The team was primarily made up of people of color, more specifically African American women and a few men. Their performance mastered the art of sharing important messages through dance in a manner that was just as equally entertaining. The music the team danced to ranged from the upbeat style of “King’s Dead” by Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, and James Blake to the powerful interlude “Tina Taught Me” featured on Solange’s album “A Seat at the Table.” They specifically used the part in the interlude where Tina Knowles says, “It’s such beauty in black people, and it really saddens me when we’re not allowed to express that pride in being black, and that if you do, then it’s considered anti-white. No! You just pro-black. And that’s okay. The two don’t go together. Because you celebrate black culture does not mean that you don’t like white culture or that you putting it down.”
When they were tapping to the interlude the rhythm slowed down significantly from what they used in “King’s Dead”. It was as if they were using their feet and altered facial expressions to truly emphasize the message being conveyed in the interlude instead of distract from it. The audience picked up on this important change in tone and voices moved to say “wow” could be heard throughout the park.
Another team of tap performers group 333 were able to convey a message through their dance alone. Besides the vast entertainment that came from watching dancers who were so precise with their moves, it was clear that one message they wanted to share with the audience was the importance of brotherhood. Throughout the performance, each team member would move through their specific combination and then seamlessly hand that same combination off to another member. There actions did not give off vibes of competition or selfish-motives in their dancing. What could be felt however was a strong desire for each other to perform to the very best of their ability, add a unique spin, and support the other team members. The team work and brotherhood could also be seen through their precision. It was clear they practiced, not only a lot on their own, but also with each other and worked closely together to make sure the transitions to each other were flawless. The true sense of comradery with this group could be felt both on and off the stage.
The performance series featured several other Tap Groups that were extremely talented and provided truly riveting performances. The Chicago Human Rhythm Tap Fest Navy Pier performance was able to intrigue and provide knowledge to the audience regarding the very intricate world of tap in a truly enlightening and engaging manner.