The seven members of Rhapsody in Taps and the five-piece jazz ensemble that accompanied them were really smoking during Saturday’s one-night stand. In fact, the dancers had the audience eating out of their hands from the moment they started tapping out their fascinating rhythms– sometimes in solos or duets, other times in groups that spread across the stage in ever-changing patterns of rhythmic syncopation.
- The San Diego Union Tribune
Founded in 1981, Rhapsody In Taps has a history of creating original works, touring and presenting, assisted by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, James Irvine Foundation, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Panasonic, Target, California Arts Council, N/S/C Partnership, Brody Arts, Times Mirror and others. The company has created more than 80 works, all performed with live music, directed by RIT Music Direcor, Tim Messina. Music commissions have included works by renowned jazz artists Al ‘Tootie’ Heath, Cedar Walton, Louie Bellson, Phil Wright, Gildo Mahones; collaborations with noted percussionists, Monti Ellison, M.B. Gordy, Michael Bissonnette, Brent Lewis and projects with world music masters: I Nyoman Wenten (Balinese gamelan music) and Leo Chelyapov (Jewish klezmer music). In 1986, Rhapsody In Taps created its first big band work for a performance at UCLA’s Royce Hall with an all star jazz big band and later had the distinction of performing concerts with the Louie Bellson Big Band.
The company has also enjoyed affiliations with Americas’ Tap Masters, performing with Los Angeles tap legend and featured RIT soloist Eddie Brown from 1985 until 1992, and presenting numerous solo tap veterans in concert including Sandman Sims, Charles ‘Honi’ Coles, Steve Condos, Bunny Briggs, Arthur Duncan, Leonard Reed, Frances Nealy, Tap and Tray (Kurt Albert & Klaus Bleis), Lane Alexander and RIT soloist, Fred Strickler. An artistic highlight for the company was the choreographic project with Gregory Hines during the creation of his 1990 work for Rhapsody In Taps, Toeing the 3rd and Fifth, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Other NEA supported choreographic commissions include works by Fred Strickler (1993), Keith Terry (1994), Brenda Bufalino (1998), Sam Weber (2002) and Linda Sohl-Ellison (2000, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). With funding from the James Irvine Foundation in 1999/2000, Rhapsody In Taps began a unique and ambitious collaborative project, an in-depth work for tap, Balinese gamelan music and Balinese inspired movement. This two year collaboration between Linda Sohl-Ellison, I Nyoman and Nanik Wenten and RIT resulted in a 40 minute, four section work, Nusantara (Bridge Between Islands). A phase II grant from the Irvine foundation in 2001/2002 supported touring Nusantara in California. Rhapsody In Tap’s 2005 tap/percussion collaboration with Monti Ellison, Stroke of the Oarsmen, received two Lester Horton Dance Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Performance from the Dance Resource Center. In 2006, commemorating
Rhapsody In Taps’ 25th Anniversary, Sohl-Ellison collaborated with Russian composer and clarinet virtuoso, Leo Chelyapov to create Laughing With Tears, a five part RIT ensemble work combining tap dance and Jewish klezmer music. Other more recent and memorable works include: Chugarump, a 6 part collaboration with Monti Ellison featuring bucket drumming and stick percussion, performed by RIT dancers and Ellison Salute To Soul, a tap suite of 5 songs to the soulful music of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, and Mambo Musings and Canadian Sunset, music arranged by Tim Messina.
Rhapsody In Taps has enjoyed touring engagements in California, New Mexico, Michigan, Utah, Florida, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, New York, Canada, Bali and Mexico. In 2000 Rhapsody In Taps spent two weeks in Bali rehearsing and performing with I Nyoman Wenten and his gamelan musicians. Besides the artistry and inspiration gained from the Balinese people, culture and landscape, the company created its tap version of the Kecak (Monkey Chant) in Payangan, Bali. The Company’s performance history also includes four television appearances (KNBC and KCET), performing at L.A.’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, a New York debut at Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, San Francisco’s prestigious Stern Grove Festival for an audience of 10,000, three concerts at the Redlands Amphitheatre for 6,000 plus 25 annual seasons at the Aratani Theatre in Los Angeles, two LA seasons at Marsee Auditorium and 21 annual seasons in Orange County. The Company’s annual Los Angeles Season at the Aratani Theatre each October features a public concert and a free Children’s Program for students from the Los Angeles Unified School District. RIT’s children’s program has been one of LAUSD’s most successful and popular events since its inception in 1991.
During its 33-year history Rhapsody In Taps has produced numerous tap events of national and international significance in an effort to preserve and promote the unique American art form of tap dance. In 1983,’84,’86,’93,’95 and ’97, RIT co-produced the Essence of Rhythm, concerts featuring America’s tap legends and solo artists. In 1993, 1995 and 1997, Rhapsody In Taps and Orange Coast College co-produced the Southern California Tap Festival featuring an intensive program of tap and jazz classes, events and performances by renowned artists. Each year Rhapsody In Taps celebrates National Tap Dance Day by offering a day of 12 master classes and informal performances in Long Beach, taught by RIT artists and special guest teachers, plus ongoing master classes and workshops in the community.
Visit National Tap Dance Day
Rhapsody In Taps marks 25 years of wide-ranging exploration of the style...performing jazz tap, flash tap, musical comedy tap and experiments juxtaposing tap and world music. Essays in world music...Bob Carroll executing intricate virtuoso steps to rhythmic Balinese chant ("Kecak")... Sohl-Ellison matching step patterns to the throb of Monti Ellison’s exotic bow shaped instrument ("Espiritu").
Musical values stayed admirable, whether the accompaniment came from Ellison, the company’s versatile jazz quintet, I Nyoman Wenten’s Balinese chanters or the guest klezmer instrumentalists. Indeed, you could speculate that Sohl-Ellison decided long ago that the emotion in a Rhapsody In Taps performance would come from what you hear, with the dancing lightly, smoothly, adroitly complementing the musicianship...it’s earned her a 25-year run, no small achievement in Los Angeles.
- The Los Angeles Times
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