The Blues Project is part-homage to tap dancing part-concert. Five musicians accompany the dance performance with excellent tunes from the outset with composer Toshi Reagon. A rhythmic adventure of eight fantastic dancers intertwining fast-paced tap dancing with African swings and the extraordinary drumming of Shirazette Tinnin.
The Blues Project has a simple choreographic structure to it, albeit the improvisation solos are some of the most exciting tap dancing I have seen in a long time, but once a solo follows another solo and another, the audience is ready for the same organised presentation format. But, this simple formation brings good reactions from the stalls.
In the absence of surprise with these mild choreographic devices, the creative team achieves something remarkable: audience participation and direction. I’ll explain, with each cheerful solo (and there were too many of the same genre) the audience is invited to cheer and applaud, causing a ripple effect in the theatre where each dance is complemented with robust and loud applause, sometimes even clapping along keeping the rhythm of the dances. It reminds me of traditional circus format, where audiences applaud after every presentation with excitement. This transfers nicely to the stage and inspires the dancers to take dance improvisations to a passionate level of entertainment.
The performance journeys through a variety of group dances but in here the rhythm is slower than on the wild at heart solo improvisations. Choreographer Michelle Dorrance works with an extensive creative team, including Derick K. Grant, Toshi Reagon and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. There seems to be an imbalance between the dominant solo performances versus the subdued group sections which are rather slow. At a later point, a pedestrian dance piece casts a shadow of doubt on the choreography, in a transition section where we see the dancers walk in a vertical and horizontal pattern. We are introduced to simple walking, but for what reasons, other than ushering the dancers off-stage and set up the scene for the next dance? It feels disconnected from the celebratory essence of this beautiful evening. The Blues Project is truly fun and an entertaining evening of music and dance.