Rhythm World takes over downtown Chicago

July 29, 2009 10:16:15 AM PDT
Every year, the Chicago Human Rhythm Project brings a fresh, world-class performance and education festival to Chicago that features some of the best "foot drummers" in the world. This year, the two-week Rhythm World presents a stellar line-up of perennial favorites and new artists for tap students of all levels and ages. This line-up includes the Ella Fitzgerald of tapland, Dianne "Lady Di" Walker; Sam "Machine Gun" Weber; Derick "A Hat for All Seasons" Grant, and many more extraordinary "regulars." Some artists are part of this year's Rhythm World for the first time including Jason "Jammin" Janas and Jakari Sherman, the Artistic Director of Washington D.C.'s pulsating Step Afrika. The Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP) is the world's only year-round presenter of American tap dance and contemporary percussive arts. Its Rhythm World is the oldest and most comprehensive festival of American tap in the world. Now in its 19th year of performance and education programs, Rhythm World takes place now through August 9 throughout downtown Chicago; performances will be held at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, the Fine Arts Building, Chicago Cultural Center, Museum of Contemporary Art and Roosevelt University.

CHRP Founder and Director Lane Alexander returns to the director's seat after three years of guest direction by Jason Samuels Smith, Dianne Walker and Derick Grant. As always, this year's Rhythm World will feature perennial favorites, including Bessie Award winner Sam Weber and Broadway diva Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, alongside new and emerging artists, including Jason Janas, a principal of the Texas tap repertory company Tapestry, and Chloe Arnold, founder and director of the Los Angeles Tap Fest.

Performances

CHRP kicks off a week of performances with its second annual free performance featuring Rhythm World faculty, YTEC participants and special guests Sunday, August 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, as part of the City of Chicago's summer music and dance performance series. Chicago's finest tap repertory companies will perform, including CHRP's ensemble BAM!, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, Jus' LisTeN, the South Shore Drill Team, Chicago Tap Theatre and more, as well as last year's smashing percussion/dance group, Be the Groove.

The week continues with a Tap Jam, a fun, free evening of improvisation by Rhythm World participants Monday, August 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington.

Tuesday, August 4 is a double-header evening featuring the Tap Slam and the Cutting Contest at 7:30 p.m. at Roosevelt University's Ganz Hall, 430 S. Michigan Ave., 7th floor. The Tap Slam puts the spotlight on 10 group or individual Rhythm World participants competing for the Tap Slam entry fees; the audience votes to determine the winner. The Cutting Contest, an improvisation competition, pits 16 of the hottest young tap dancers against each other in a foot-to-foot combat tournament. A select panel of Rhythm World faculty members will judge the competition and the winner will receive the Contest entry fees.

A student showcase performance takes place Wednesday, August 5 at 7:30 p.m., also at Ganz Hall. Admission to the August 4 and 5 evenings is $5 each at the door or in advance at chicagotap.org.

Rhythm World culminates with CHRP's annual performances, "JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance," featuring a host of extraordinary foot drummers on Thursday, August 6 and Saturday, August 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art's MCA Stage, 220 E. Chicago Ave. Thursday's performance includes Emmy Award winner Jason Samuels Smith, Broadway diva Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and renowned choreographer Chloe Arnold, joined by CHRP Founder and Director Lane Alexander and CHRP's ensemble BAM!.

Saturday's performance includes the Ella Fitzgerald of American tap, Dianne "Lady Di" Walker, alongside tap virtuoso and Bessie Award winner Sam Weber, wunderkind Jason Janas and Chicago's finest tap ensembles. Both performances feature guest artists and youth tap ensembles from around the world and live music by the Vijay Tellis-Nayak Trio. Single tickets are $30, $25 for Rhythm World participants and MCA members.

For complete Rhythm World information, visit www.chicagotap.org or call 773-281-1825. For tickets to "JUBA!" performances, call 312-397-4010 or visit www.mcachicago.org .

Education Programs

Rhythm World began July 27 with intensive residencies through July 31 led by Sam Weber and Derick Grant at the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., and Artistic Director Jakari Sherman of Step Afrika! at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), 220 E. Chicago Ave. Weber, a Bessie Award winner and former Joffrey 2 member, is internationally recognized as one of the greatest tap virtuosos of all time as well as a master choreographer and master teacher. Grant was an original company member and dance captain for Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk and recently toured the country with his creation A Night Out: Tap!. Step Afrika!, based in Washington, D.C., is the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping, and they will make their full-company Chicago debut on CHRP's Global Rhythms program at the Harris Theater in November 2009.

Courses, workshops and master classes take place August 3?9 at the Fine Arts Building and Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Ave. The highly respected faculty of master teachers, in addition to Weber, Grant and Sherman of Step Afrika!, includes CHRP Director Lane Alexander, Chloe Arnold, Julie Cartier, Idella Reed Davis, Martin "Tre" Dumas, Ray Hesselink, Jason Janas, Gene Medler, Billy Siegenfeld, Jason Samuels Smith, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Dianne "Lady Di" Walker and Mark Yonally.

Now in its eighth year, CHRP's annual Youth Tap Ensemble Conference (YTEC) takes place August 3?7 at the Fine Arts Building. PrepTEC, a new component in this year's YTEC, offers younger members of the pre-professional repertory companies an opportunity to benefit from the expertise available during Rhythm World. More than 120 dancers between the ages of 12 and 19, representing 14 youth tap ensembles from the U.S., China, Brazil, Canada, Panama and other locations, will gather to study new choreography, technique, improvisation and theatre-related topics. YTEC participants will learn three new works by Jason Janas, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Step Afrika! while the PrepTEC students will learn an historical dance from Dianne Walker created by her mentor, native Chicagoan Leon Collins.

An expanded Kids Program August 5?7 at the Fine Arts Building offers intermediate tappers ages nine through 12 a curriculum including oral and video histories, tap technique classes, improvisation instruction and individual development of style and expression.

To register for any of the education programs, visit chicagotap.org or call 773-281-1825.

CHRP's 2009 season concludes with Global Rhythms and Thanks 4 Giving, a series of shared revenue, contemporary percussive arts performances featuring the Chicago debut of Washington D.C.'s Step Afrika!, November 19, 20, 21 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park.

CHRP's 2009 season is supported by The MacArthur Fund for the Arts and Culture at the Prince, The Chicago Community Trust, Prince Charitable Trusts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Target, American Airlines, Leo's Dancewear, The Illinois Arts Council, The Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg Family Foundation, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Jerome and Jeanette Cohen Family Foundation, The Oppenheimer Family Foundation, L!VE Marketing (sic), Charter One Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation, Arts Midwest, The Dr. Scholl Foundation, American Overseas Transport, L and L Hardwood Flooring and generous individual donors. All programming is subject to change. For information, visit www.chicagotap.com.

Founded in 1990, the Chicago Human Rhythm Project is America's oldest institution dedicated to preserving, presenting and teaching tap and percussive dance by bringing together generations of tap dance legends, professionals, students and enthusiasts for classes, performances and workshops. CHRP has four artistic focuses: presenting world-class dance concerts, building a permanent educational forum for tap and percussive dance, sustaining the art form through preservation and documentation and promoting respect and appreciation between various communities by presenting ethnically and aesthetically diverse artists.

All programming is subject to change. For information, visit www.chicagotap.com

ABOUT BAM!

Chicago Human Rhythm Project's performing ensemble has an extensive repertory including the classics, contemporary jazz tap and experimental yet accessible rhythmic expression like body drumming. Technical virtuosity and passion are the hallmarks of the company which never fails to engage and surprise the most seasoned theater audiences. The group was created in 2004 as a choreographic project with funding from the Chicago Dancemakers' Forum and has since performed at the 5th Anniversary Beijing International Dance Festival, the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park (with the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic), and Dance For Life, just to name a few. BAM! has received critical accolades, standing ovations and has appeared as a part of Dance Chicago, Jubilate at the Harris Theater, the Spertus Institute and other Chicago venues. BAM! currently tours its lecture demonstration "We All Got Rhythm" to K-12 schools through Urban Gateways and has performed more than 60 shows to over 15,000 students in just over one year. The BAM! ensemble consists of Chicago's finest tap artists who can also be seen performing for River North Dance Chicago, Especially Tap Chicago and other companies throughout the city.

HISTORY OF THE CHICAGO HUMAN RHYTHM PROJECT

Co-founded in 1990 by Lane Alexander and Kelly Michaels, CHRP began as a summer festival at the Gus Giordano Dance Center in Evanston, Illinois with a single performance at Northwestern University. CHRP donated proceeds from the concert to Open Hand/Chicago, a meals-on-wheels program serving people affected by HIV/AIDS. Fifty-two students attended the classes and over 200 tap and rhythmic dance enthusiasts attended the benefit concert. CHRP's summer festival is now the oldest and most comprehensive annual tap festival in the world while CHRP has evolved to become the first year round presenter of concert tap and contemporary percussive dance in the world.

CHRP has grown from presenting performances in small venues over two days of classes to presenting in large and mid-sized venues over twelve months of residencies, workshops and classes at community-centered locations. Attendance in all concert, education and outreach programs reached a new high of 40,000 in 2007 while combined earned income, contributed and in-kind contributions exceeded one million dollars for the first time. As of 2008, CHRP will have awarded $200,000 in scholarships to deserving and talented youths for summer study programs over a period of 15 years.

CHRP received an Emmy nomination, as well as national airings, for its co-production with Chicago's PBS affiliate, WTTW, of JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance, the documentary about tap dance at the end of the 20th century. National publications like Dance Magazine and the New York Times have cited CHRP for leadership/innovation in the field and in 2007 CHRP earned a National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces Grant administered by Illinois Arts Council.

Chicago Human Rhythm Project celebrates and preserves the American art of tap dance through performances, teaching, the creation of new work and documentation. Through its programs, CHRP promotes cultural diversity, emphasizing ethnic minority participation and partnership among Chicago artists and Chicago communities. Through an annual summer festival and year-round presentations, CHRP is an important contributor to Chicago's vibrant dance community.


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