by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
'When was the last time you saw someone tap dance?' asked Josh Scribner, a Seattle-based dancer and choreographer known for innovative and contemporary interpretation of tap dance. 'When was the last time you heard the phrase 'tap dance' and 'Israeli Psy-Trance' used in the same sentence?'
'Well, if you come see our show, you might just use them in the same sentence yourself,' continued Scribner, 'along with 'hip-hop,' 'flamenco guitar,' 'Bach fugue,' and, hopefully, 'Damn, they're good!'
Scribner, whose career has led him to perform with Cirque du Soleil and more, has a point. The first time I saw the tap dancers of Alchemy Tap Project, I not only thought they were good, I voted them on to compete in the final round of a local talent competition, Century's Got Talent. Months later (and thousands of taps danced), the kids are returning to Century Ballroom (915 E. Pine St.) March 23 and 24, but not to compete. This time, it is all about something they call Beat Science, a show they think just might change the way you look at the art of tap dancing.
'I created the Alchemy Tap Project because I believe tap dancing can be more than top hats and canes, and shouldn't be limited to just jazz or swing music,' Scribner told Seattle Gay News. 'After recruiting 17 extremely talented dancers ranging in age from 11 to 29, we began exploring the choreographic potential in many different kinds of music, and with many different stylistic influences, including hip-hop, ballet, and theater.'
I can attest to the fact that Alchemy Tap Project is a different kind of dance company. I'm a convert. After watching these talented dancers, just seconds into their act, I dare you not to sit up, take note, and think to yourself, 'How on earth are they doing that?!'
Focusing on developing the next generation of young 'hoofers,' ATP was founded on the principle that neither percussion nor dance is restricted to one style of music.
'We proudly present a new version for a traditional American art form,' ATP proclaims on their website, www.alchemytap.com.
Scribner said that 'rehearsals for our first show, Beat Science, began in September 2011, with some dancers spending over 10 hours a week in the studio between classes and rehearsals.'
As this article goes to print, he said ATP is 'finishing up a piece' they are 'super excited about.'
'We are combining different sounding dance surfaces with hip-hop and contemporary choreography,' added Scribner.
Traditional tap dance enthusiasts need not fret, as Scribner promises that the first half of the show is 'largely devoted to jazz and swing.' It is the second (and longer) half where ATP really shows their unique style.
One of the most amazing things about experiencing an ATP performance is that you can see the joy in each dancer's face. This group is made up of some of the most talented and dedicated dancers I've seen, at any age. The chemistry between them is palpable as it becomes obvious they are having just as much fun as - or more than - the audience is.
Obviously, with practice and dedication comes skill. But under the watchful and encouraging eyes of Scribner, these dancers are a step - or tap, if you will - ahead of the rest. Maybe it's because he can relate to even the youngest of would-be hoofers. Scribner began studying rhythm tap at the age of 8 with Cheryl Johnson in Seattle. He continued under her direction for 10 years as a part of the youth performance company Tap Squad. Along his journey, he was able to work with such masters as Savion Glover, Sam Weber, Dianne Walker, and Van Porter, often sharing the stage with them at tap festivals around the nation. As an adult, Scribner developed his unique style of choreography by finding inspiration in hip-hop and electronic music along with the traditional jazz, swing, and Latin rhythms he was raised with.
He is the perfect fit for ATP, and it shows.
'He pushes us a lot,' Vikas Arun, 17, said of his instructor. Arun, a junior at Lakeside High School in North Seattle, has been dancing for eight years - five of them with ATP. 'But that's why I stay dancing with him. He really thinks outside of the box.'
Arun told SGN the members of the dance company are really close. 'We just have a lot of fun,' he said.
The young man said he dances because of the 'combination of artistic expression and physical activity.'
'It's great to be able to exercise and express yourself,' he said. 'It is just cool.'
Like Scribner, Arun said he plans to continue as a dancer after he graduates high school. He intends to study in Los Angeles or New York so he can receive his dance and academic education.
As far as Beat Science goes, Arun told me that he thinks what they've created is 'brilliant!'
'The choreography is awesome,' he said. 'It is a very unique show.'
'I want the audience to get a greater appreciation for the art form and we will help them realize that tap is not as old-school as everyone seems to think and that it can be cool and paired with new music,' Arun concluded.
Anabel Watson, 14, explained further. 'The 'science' part of Beat Science, to me, seems to come from the experimental blending of these styles and moods.'
'Tap is a very percussive art form where the rhythms and movements come together to create a unique, visual kind of music,' she continued. 'Working with this range of styles has helped me to continually learn, and develop appreciation for different kinds of music and dance.'
'Come to our show!' Watson said. 'Maybe you'll even get inspired to try tapping yourself.'
Zoë Groff, 12, has a solo in the show. 'Anyone who knows the song I'm dancing to - 'And Then You're Gone' by Pink Martini - knows that it is a fun, kind of over-the-top dramatic story about a woman who gets dumped by her boyfriend,' she said. 'In the song she is mad that she doesn't get her way, and I act that out in my dance. There is a really funny moment in the dance that I will keep as a surprise!'
Groff says that when she dances she feels like she can do anything. 'I like that when I dance, especially in my solo, I can be kind of a different person than I really am,' she said. Parker has been dancing since she was 3. 'If I've had a hard day or something I just dance and I feel better. I can't remember a time in my life that I haven't danced.'
Beat Science will take place at Century Ballroom on March 23 and 24, beginning at 7 p.m. If you are only interested in the show, tickets are $20 at www.brwnpapertickets.com/event/230714. For audience members looking for dinner and a show, $60 will get you both the show and a delicious three-course meal prepared by the chef at neighboring Tin Table Restaurant, located on the second floor of the OddFellows Building, where the Grand Ballroom resides. If you've never sampled the wonderful food at Tin Table, I strongly urge you to buy the dinner-and-show package. You won't be disappointed.
'If there's one thing we want people to come away with from having watched Beat Science, it's thinking, 'Wow, I've never seen tap dancing like that,' said Scribner. 'If we can do that then we know they will also ask, 'When can I see more?'
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