When the performers of Wednesday night's Jazz Tap Revue at Lafayette College stood in line together to perform the Shim Sham Shimmy for a capacity audience at the Williams Center, it was almost surprising that hidden worth the amazing range of sounds they had made that evening was a common language they could speak.
Taking turns throughout the evening, each had proven that he or she was a star in his or her own right. Side by side at the end, their spirits would not be squelched by the necessity of performing in unison, and their striking dissimilarities were a pleasant reminder of the individual styles on display throughout the evening.
Easton resident and Muhlenberg College dance instructor Shelley Oliver, former co-artistic director of Manhattan Tap in New York City, was up first. Her style is very erect, her rapid-style taps happening right underneath her. Oliver's command of her long limbs illustrates that while tap is about using your muscles, it is just as much about when to let them go.
Oliver performed a nostalgic, choreographed tribute to Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who gained popularity in movies with Shirley Temple, to a score composed by a bass player Lynn Seaton. She was equally entertaining in an extended improvisation performed in silence.
Venerable vaudeville veteran Buster Brown announced that he will be 82 next month, adding, "I am the oldest tap dancer alive." Brown continued to alternate movement passages with the stand-up comedy. Stiff through the back, Brown still floated above the floor like a hover-craft, allowing his taps to strike the floor at select times, He was tentative at first, but as Brown warmed up he let the effects of his foot motions ripple through the rest of his body.
Philadelphia partners LaVaughn Robinson, now in his late 60's, and his younger partner, Germaine Ingram, are mentor and student, but the warmth, wit and mutual admiration inherent to their act made them seem like father and daughter. They both sparkled, but in decidedly different ways: her cat-like movements had a bright polish; his truer, rougher edge was distinguished by the well-earned silver in his hair. Their precision duets were full of movement surprises, such as off-balance suspensions and airborne moments, which suggested that Ingram has no intention of letting her partner age.
The concert was arranged by Lafayette artist-in-residence Dave Leonhardt, a jazz pianist, who with Seaton on bass and Bobby Durham on drums made a worthy backdrop to the hoofers.
-- Kathryn Williams The Morning Call