Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tap in, Turn up with the Chicago Sinfonietta

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Chicago Sinfonietta Tap In. Turn Up.
Photo via Chicago Sinfonietta
This is a guest post by my husband. We were invited to this performance as media guests. The Chicago Sinfonietta took a back seat  on a recent Monday night at Symphony Center for Tap In. Turn Up., an incongruous blend of dance and symphonic music. With the orchestra visible on stage, two Flamenco dancers and a tap dancer distracted us from the swaying of the violin bows and the flapping of the conductor’s baton.

First, Wendy Clinard performed a sinuous flamenco to Roberto Sierra's Fandangos, her pink-sleeved arms elegantly posing like twin flamingos to the lull of the music.

Similarly, tap dancer Cartier Williams crept onto the stage, arms writhing in ballet-like poses to the slow segment of Stravinsky’s Firebird. I was unclear if he was poking fun at ballet or just passing time until the vibrant parts of the piece.

Soon the tempo picked up and Williams was clacking feverishly across the stage, his ankles a blur as he machine-gunned multiple beats beyond the orchestra’s ability to keep up. I don’t know that the tapping enhanced the music, but it was certainly more fun to watch.

Williams was all energy and rhythm until finally, he threw himself off the stage. It almost looked like a mistake, but it was pure performance. He slowly tapped his way across the first row, up the stairs to the stage and back behind the conductor’s podium as he concluded the finale segment to a standing ovation.

Instead of taking a nap, which I would have done after all that dancing, Williams joined Clinard and Flamenco dancer, Marisela Taples, for a tap/Flamenco hybrid dance to Alexander Borodin’s Prince Igor. Although Clinard and Taples employed a green shawl as a prop, their movements didn't seem to tell a story and their interactions with the tapper didn't bring out the most interesting elements of each genre. But the tapping was fun.

At intermission we took a communal tap-dancing lesson thanks to the Chicago Human Rhythm Project and then the Sinfonietta finished with Rimsky-Korsakov's dance-free Scheherazade.

Although this was more familiar than the earlier tunes (and as much as I like classical music), I was primed for something more visually appealing to keep me at the edge of my seat. Although I was awake the whole time, my step- and sleep-tracking watch claims I slept through the last 33 minutes of the performance. But I swear I didn’t.

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