AND STILL YOU MUST SWING
December 6, 2019
And Still You Must Swing enraptured The Joyce Theater through sheer joy, eloquent rhythmic discourse, musical exuberance, poetic narratives, and evocative lighting. Conceived by acclaimed tap master, performer, and choreographer, Dormeshia Sumbrey-Edwards, the program exuded pizazz with performance, choreography, and, as stated in the program, “improvography.”
Accompanying Sumbry-Edwards, the stage was graced by leading hoofers Jason Samuels Smith and Derick K. Grant in a collegial intricate percussive dialogue. Featured as a special guest, Camille A. Brown added powerful theatricality to the program with her choreographic fusion of West African, contemporary and vernacular dance.
The evening kicked off with an overture by an eclectic jazz band integrated by Winard Harper (drums), Noah Garabedian (bass) and Carmen Staaf (piano), who also served as director establishing the pulse for each work. Rhythm Migration (2016) opened the program introducing percussionist Gabriel Roxbury who entered playing the Djembe followed by Camille A. Brown, who embodied the sociopolitical resistance text of “The Buzzard Lope.”
Bringing the house into an expressive riot, the trio of tap artists and hoofer masters turned the stage into an orchestral instrument. Connecting the lineage of legends like Jimmy Slyde or Gregory Hines, they slid pro and fro, accenting their chromatic sequences with resonant breaks. Their nonchalant percussive conversations progressed, responding to the band and each other with summative musical contributions, to which the audience could not resist interjecting exclamations.
Dormeshia’s slim figure and strong theatrical dance technique painted the scene with embellished lines, coquettish gestures, and the elegance signature of the musical reviews of the 1940's. Smith continued to surprise connoisseurs with the musicality he created from his profound understanding of the variants in the quality of the sound and resonant capabilities of the miked stage. His virtuoso tap sequences faded into whispering nerve tap trills awakened by the drumming power of a single stomp.
Displaying an extraordinary mastery of the art form, Grant delighted the house with his contagious sense of humor. Literally stretching his body to the max , he glided through the stage as if pulled by magnets, and grabbing the audience’s Ohs! and some Oles!
Swing Out presented the trio in another light, swing dancing in sneakers, breezing through time and space with playful ease. As demonstrated by these versatile artists, the essence of jazz and tap is not only in the what but the how; not only in the score or the choreography but in the inner sense of rhythm and musicality of the artist.
Patrons had ample opportunity on the expertise of each soloist with numbers titled Dormeshia Swings, Derick Swings, Camille Swings, and Jason Swings. T
he generous program offered two additional choreographic works by the percussive trio: Swinging the Miles (2016), choreographed by Jason Samuels Smith, and Swinging me Soflty (2016), choreographed by the collective. And Still you Must Swing (2016) closed the night with choreography by Grant, showcasing the whole ensemble. Through the last number and encore, the percussive artists brought the audience to the edge of their seats, and closing with a roaring standing ovation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Gabriella Estrada