Chicago Human Rhythm Project: Legacy | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chicago Human Rhythm Project: Legacy

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The first of three weekends in this festival of percussive dance, now in its 12th year, features contemporary Chicago artists taught or influenced by former famous tappers. Bril Barrett and Martin "Tre" Dumas of MADD Rhythms, for instance, studied at the Sammy Dyer School of the Theatre and Tommy Sutton's Mayfair Academy respectively. But like many tap dancers, these two purveyors of hip-hop tap haven't been content to let the art form be: as Barrett said in a 1995 interview with the Reader (when the group was called Steppin' Out), "A lot of young people weren't into tap because they thought it's only old people in tuxedos....We're starting to change the tap standard to be funkier and more groove-oriented." At the other end of the spectrum is Lane Alexander: he'll pay tribute to tap great Paul Draper, known in the 30s and 40s for his ballet-inflected tapping to classical music. Apparently a man of integrity, Draper was fired from the 1946 film Blue Skies when he showed his contempt for the dancing of his female costar (Fred Astaire was brought in to replace him), and his career died when he was blacklisted after World War II (Ed Sullivan apologized in 1950 for having had him on the show). Not surprisingly, Alexander is also known for tapping to classical music, including Morton Gould's Tap Dance Concerto with the Chicago Sinfonietta. All four acts on the program will offer works honoring their predecessors, then updates of the form; also appearing are Idella Reed (who attended the Sammy Dyer School as well) and her all-female group, Rhythm Iss..., and Perfect Timing, headed by Jimmy Payne Jr. and Sara Payne, the children of Chicago tap artist Jimmy Payne. (See the listing for the lineups, dates, places, and times of programs on subsequent weekends.) Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. Through August 4: Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 4 PM. $20.

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