Tap takes over the world | Dance Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Tap takes over the world

Japanese dancers highlighted at Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Juba! concerts


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Seemingly poised for world domination, tap dance is big even in Japan. Tappers wearing traditional sandals fitted out with cleats rocked a massive Busby Berkeley-esque dance scene in the 2003 Japanese action flick The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, set during the Edo period of roughly 150 to 400 years ago. One of the featured tapsters was hip-hop stylist Yuji Uragami, aka Suji, who's performing at all three of Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Juba! concerts this year. Online videos show him tapping in the Times Square subway station, upper body loose and swaying in the style made famous by Savion Glover. But Uragami is lighter on his feet than Glover: in another video, his jaw-dropping hummingbird beats sound like a funky synthesizer beneath the lightning-fast licks of jazz guitarist Watanabe Tomoyuki.

Japanese tap evangelist Yukiko "Smilie" Misumi, meanwhile, is a rhythmically sensitive, more traditional tapper. Winner of this year's Juba! Award from CHRP, she performs Thursday night with her troupe, ARTN Tap Dance Company, on a bill that also features Chicago's FootworKINGz, who tore up the house with their percussive stylings at CHRP's "Windy City Rhythms" show last May. They'll be joined by Chicago repertory companies BAM!, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, and MADD Rhythms, among others. Wednesday night is devoted to soloists, and Saturday to "masters," including Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Derick K. Grant, and Sam Weber.

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