Urban Tap implies sophistication. But there is nothing sophisticated about Tamango van Cayseele Stanislas’ dance and music ensemble.
His company of six, including himself, is a collection of disparate, folksie artists who try to make things happen through rhythm. And while some of its grooves do sound intriguing, the troupe didn’t make much more than trifling tones on Friday night at The Egg.
This is Urban Tap’s third visit to Albany. Its first when Tamango (as he likes to be referred to) was its most impressive. Its second, with artists from the Caribbean, was a disaster, a miscalculation of the abilities of his fellow artists who just circled around the tapper in colorful garb.
This time around, the program known as “Caravane” was better. But what Tamango fails to appreciate is that audiences like a program to head in a direction, to sport a purpose and perhaps to demonstrate a bit of stagecraft.
Tamango fails on all counts. This tapper, who is quite talented with his feet, is more of an anthropologist. He travels Africa, Europe, America and the Caribbean collecting artists who practice genres that Tamango appreciates or would like to toy with himself. He grabs them and tries to layer his tap with these practices.
It’s a great idea, but the show comes off as an amateur jam session — a street showcase one might find in the park, watch for five minutes, throw a few coins to and move on.
This is not to diminish the talents of some of Tamango’s crew. Tamango himself has the ability to move stealthily, his taps just whisking the floor. In the next number, though, he might raise his knees high in a cross between a polka and an African stomp. His feet have the potential to make magic.
He was joined by Moroccan sintir (like a lute) player Hassan Hakmoun. The sound from his electrified instrument was enchanting. Yet it was baffling as to why he marched on stage, with taps, as he strummed his instrument. He detracted from his own sound. Besides, the rhythm was beautifully supplied by Tamango, fellow tapper Chikako Iwahori and percussionist Graham Haynes (son of Roy Haynes). Occasionally, the high-pitch trumpet, as played by Daniel Moreno, would pierce the air, enhancing the riotous sound.
It was also fascinating to watch the give and take between Tamango and break dancer James P. “Cricket” Colter who took part in the program. As one listened to Tamango’s rhythms, that same rhythm would become visual in the fluid moves of Colter. A muscle of a man, Colter sat off to the side for most of the goings-on. That was too bad as when he did join Tamango, he added dimension to this unfortunate experiment.
Sadly, in the end, Urban Tap never rose above the sense that this is a group of friends just hanging out to see what kind of noise they could make. At some point, Urban Tap needs to build a structure for its freewheeling. Otherwise, it will remain a second-class street show.