03 October 2010

So, I've been meaning to write something more thoughtful about Josh Hilberman's...

...tap show, Heeling Powers: Rhythms of the Left Brain, that played at Playhouse on Park on 25 Saturday 2010, so here goes.

The show featured Mr. Hilberman and his remarkable accompanist Paul Arslanian, with additional support from a trio of tappers "Schwab's Mob" (Melissa Bias, Kathryn Holtzclaw, and Jennifer Williams), and their leader, Lynn Schwab, and was a true tour de force.

In the talk back that followed the performance, Mr. Hilberman referred to the show as a retrospective or a greatest hits package, and indeed the show highlighted many different styles (from the loose tap approach of Brenda Bufalino to tapping while playing the ukelele to his tapping in women's high-heeled shoes ! -- not to mention the witty talk in between numbers, which allowed him to catch a breath and change his shoes). 

The nine tap numbers featured choreography by Paul Draper/Dean Diggins, the aforementioned Ms. Bufalino, James "Buster" Brown, and Leon Collins, as well as Hilberman himself.   In addition, two of the numbers, "On the Street Where You Live" and  "Charade" were true jazz improvisations with Hilberman and Arslanian riffing off one another in call-and-response duets.  Another improvistation, with Ms. Schwab this time, on "Cappella Josh" (the basic routine of which, we understand, is HUGE in Barcelona) was equally deft in its interplay between dancers.

The show also highlighted not just different tap techniques but the vast range of feeling that tap dancing can cover -- a fact that many who think of tap only in connection with Shirley Temple tend to overlook.  While it can be brassy and frenetic, tap, as Mr. Hilberman desmonstrated impressively, can be subdued and  -- in the case of his performances of "Laura" and "Charade" -- quite moving, as well.

The tapping tyro in me paid especial attention to Mr. Hilberman's ability to slam down his toes and heels with a conviction that I can only hope one day to approximate (as opposed to my too-often dropping them for a less compelling sound). 

"Bend those knees; keep those feet loose; commit!", I hear my tap teacher saying.

The talk back was instructive (even if he couldn't really explain his show's title), but many of us in the audience did learn that tap took a hit not just with the demise of Hollywood musicals but, more significantly, when the cabaret tax was instituted and took tap shows out of the clubs in NYC.  In general,   however, the talk back was a chance for both him and Mr. Arslanian to talk clearly and compellingly about an art form to which they both have committed their lives -- a commitment for which I cannot but thank them heartily.

The show at Playhouse on Park was one night only, but, if Mr. Hilberman comes to your neck of the woods, sieze the opportunity!

No comments:

Post a Comment