Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, The Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble announced the continuation of its Guest Artist Commission, through which the ensemble produces original works of choreography, centering the work of women and trans artists. This year, renowned tap dancer and Broadway veteran Lisa La Touche has set a new work for the Philadelphia-based company, entirely from the safety of her home in Canada, with help from Philadelphia’s own Tommy Campbell, an American jazz drummer who toured with Dizzy Gillespie.
“I first met Lisa at the London Tap Jam almost a decade ago,” recalls Artistic Director Kat Echevarria Richter, who was completing her graduate degree at the time. “I’ve followed her career ever since, from her work in Stomp to Savion Glover’s Shuffle Along on Broadway back in 2016.” Although Shuffle Along: the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed closed after just 100 performances, it told the story of the first all-Black Broadway musical created by Noble Blake, Eubie Sissle, Flournoy Miller, and Aubrey Lyles with a new libretto by George C. Wolfe. It also highlighted the unsung heroes of the musical theatre world: the chorus girl, a role in which La Touche excelled.
“We realized we had to do something different this year,” explains the company’s Managing Director, Katie Budris. “The pandemic has been extremely difficult for those of us who work in the performing arts, but we remain committed to providing paid opportunities for women in tap—both for our dancers and for those working professionally as choreographers.” Coming off the success of their critically acclaimed #HoofersAtHome film series and The Tapcracker at Home screening, the directors’ decision to shift the entire residency online offered new possibilities—Budris and Richter discussed, for example, the idea of commissioning a London-based artist, but given the difficulty of working synchronously in different time zones, they ultimately settled on the Canadian-based La Touche.
When they pitched the residency, La Touche came back with an idea she’d been tossing around for a while: commissioning an elder from Philly’s jazz drumming community to create a new arrangement of Oscar Peterson’s “You Look Good to Me” for a new work that both she and the ensemble could add to their repertoires. “Canned music is nice and convenient,” she notes, “but if we’re doing this, let’s do it right! The integrity, the culture of this dance is with the music and musicians.” La Touche filmed not only the choreography but also the teaching tutorials to aid the dancers in learning the new work. She met with the ensemble on Zoom for two live coaching sessions to provide feedback and answer questions.
La Touche is the fifth Guest Artist Commission for The Lady Hoofers. Past choreographers have included Dolores Sanchez (2017), Caleb Teicher (2018), Michele Dunleavy (2019), and most recently, Philadelphia’s own Robyn Watson (2020), although the premiere of her work was postponed due to the pandemic. “Even though we’re a relatively small company, we’ve been able to work with some truly amazing artists, and we’re thrilled for the opportunity to work with Lisa,” notes Budris. Audiences can look forward to a work-in-progress showing of La Touche’s “Honeysomethin’ Blues” on June 30 in Dilworth Park for The Arts on Center Stage Series.
The Lady Hoofers: Performance and Work-in-Progress Preview
The Arts on Center Stage series
Dilworth Park, City Hall
Wednesday June 30 at 6pm, Free