Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Unprecedented talent of the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble in Rhythm Evolved

The dancers of the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble (NCYTE) brought their youthful exuberance and polished precision to an enthusiastic audience at the Carolina Theatre on opening night for their new show Rhythm Evolved. They’ll be repeating the performance Sunday, April 28th at 2:00 pm and you would do yourself a favor to be there.

The two seniors, Laura and Sarah, planned the show with the help of director Gene Medler and assistant director Rachel Teem. The pair of seniors also choreographed the opening number, entitled Rhythm Evolved. The apt name of the dance and program was given in recognition of tap’s historical evolution to the present, the evolution of NCYTE over its 30 years, and the two seniors’ personal tap journeys over the years with NCYTE, according to Laura.

When the curtain lifted you could feel positive energy and a lightness in the theater. The dancers looked sharp in black dress clothes, uniform but individual.

I found it impossible not to smile when I heard the Old Crow Medicine Show song Hard to Love and heavy footsteps coming from backstage that signaled the beginning of the Bluegrass Suite, one of two suites choreographed for the company by alum Michelle Dorrance. Petite Suite, a set of three dances is equally charming and quirky. The newest addition to Petite Suite, The Waltz is a laugh out loud dance full of show-offs with a Spanish flare.

Dancers Luke and Max performed the demanding tap dance choreographed and made famous by Steve and Nick Condos in 1938, The Condos Brothers’ Indian Routine. Sam Weber reconstructed and restaged the work in 2003. It’s a dance full of unbelievably fast and challenging flash tap steps in which Luke and Max remained consistently in sync with each other and the music.

The Taiko Drumming Dance is a new piece conceived by Medler based on traditional Japanese Taiko drumming. In this beautiful piece, drummers move slowly and cast long shadows, gradually increasing the tempo. They are joined by two dancers who add to the complexity of the drums’ rhythm before finishing as one with the drums.

Rhythm Evolved features guest artists Matthew Shields and Michelle Dorrance, who each dance alone and return to the stage together later in the show. Shields, currently based in Austin, TX where he is a principal dancer with Tapestry Dance Company, gave a whimsical performance to continuously changing music. His ease with slides and turns made it seem he was on ice. Shields danced in a familiar and understated way and worked his way up to super-fast taps that came from imperceptible movements.

Dorrance’s physical whole-body based tapping and authentic expression created an attention grabbing and captivating performance. I’ve never seen a tap dancer so connected to the sounds she produces. The sounds separated from her movement as smoothly as liquid mercury separates into droplets.

Dorrance, who is a Bessie award winner and the first tap  choreographer to receive a Princess Grace award, spoke as a former NCYTE member about the company’s 30 years, its legacy, and the impact of Gene Medler as the director. “He is developing artists,” Dorrance said of Medler. She also said the company is unprecedented in the world and throughout tap history.

From the seniors to the youngest and newest, NCYTE members are creative in improvisation, precise and engaged in groups, and a joy to witness in action. These kids are top-notch artists you don’t want to miss. Do yourself a favor and go see the Sunday performance.

NCYTE Rhythm Evolved

For ticket information visit:

See some pictures from a studio rehearsal at Artsview NC : A day with NCYTE

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