by Kat Richter for The Dance Journal
September 7, 2012
Combine fifteen student dancers, a dizzying array of costume changes, original music by Christopher Tolomeo and choreography by veteran musical theater dancers Amy Smith and John Curtis and you’ve got one heck of a show. Day for a Dream, performed by The Call Me Crazy Dancers at Temple’s Conwell Theater on Thursday night was an ambitious homage to all things Broadway and Broad Street, serving as a love letter to the Big Apple, the golden age of Hollywood and Philadelphia.
The show, which included and overwhelming nineteen dances, got off to a slow start with dancers posing as both passengers and panhandlers on the New York City subway. But then Curtis hit the floor with a crisp shuffle ball heel, and the dancers came to life. Smith picked up the beat and they volleyed back and forth until dancer Brittany Dunn joined in, at which point the trio tapped their way through paddle rolls and clean double pullbacks.
Ray Cook delivered the first of the evening’s monologues, each of which described the artists’ experience of love, be it the love of dance, music, another individual or simply the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain. Students from Stagelights Dance Studio and Paul Klocke School of Dance took the stage in bright red fringe and heels for Call Me Crazy, a fun and upbeat musical theater number choreographed by Curtis that evoked the 1920s, then in black for Paint the Town Red. The girls’ ability to dance in heels was impressive—it’s not often that you see students who can pull of classic jazz these days— but I wish choreographer Vicky Todd Saunders had left the turn sequences to the competition circuit where they (for better or worse) have come to belong.
I Know You’ve Heard It Before, choreographed by Curtis, was a sweet nod to musical theater tap. Curtis and partner shuffled happily across a backdrop suggestive of Rittenhouse Square until Smith and Dunn sauntered onstage in their high heeled tap shoes and threatened to steal him away. Although the footwork wasn’t demanding, it was crisp and well executed with a number of unexpected changes in rhythm that kept the audience rapt. The quartet is to be commended for keeping tap in the Fringe.
Highlights of the evening included Cook’s duet with Amina Uqdah, which revealed Cook’s talent for combining lyricism with athleticism, and the solo performed by the sinuous Jeff Gorti. Also worth noting was just every number in which the leggy Dunn performed. Although Smith was clearly the best hoofer of the group, Dunn transitioned seamlessly from tap to jazz to tap again, smiling through flawless layouts and extensions.
Curtis’s dedicated his original song and dance solo, aptly named And a Dance, to Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Although the evening was meandering at times, the many transitions and costumes changes were tight and both Smith and Curtis should be proud of their efforts to introduce the next generation to musical theater dance.
Kat Richter is a freelance writer and teaching artist. Her work can be found at www.katrichter.com.
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