The Saratoga Performing Arts Center warmed up its summer dance season on Friday night with bang. It was the sound booming from the feet of tapper Jason Samuels Smith and his A.C.G.I., an acronym for Anybody Can Get It.
The audience at Spa Little Theatre surely did get and appreciate it as the riotous rhythms of six hoofers and a musical trio tickled as much as they startled in a show that was high-energy from start to finish.
This dynamic showing that had the crowd smiling throughout owes much to Smith — a generous spirit whose range is impressive.
With his feet, he can be light, fast, smooth or hard-edged. He does it all with finesse and a fluid ease that captivates. And he wisely surrounded himself with talents that are powerhouses.
Let’s first consider the musicians. Leading the pack was the versatile jazz pianist Theo Hill (the son of former Daily Gazette dance critic and tap scholar Constance Valis-Hill).
Hill had an easygoing rapport with the animated bassist Aaron D. James and reserved drummer Emanuel Harrold.
While not as boisterous as his ensemble mates, Harrold could trade beat for beat with every one of the tappers, all of whom were terrific.
Nearly stealing the show from Smith was Chloe Arnold. She is the ballerina of tappers, with a port de bras that was as graceful as Margot Fonteyn.
Sporting an unstoppable smile, she hit the beat and tiptoed through “My Favorite Things” with class.
Long and lean Lee Howard acted the imp in his solo, “Giant Steps.” Like Arnold, he was easy on the eyes and ears as he sprinkled his dance with some flashy steps that were as fun to watch as they were to listen to.
Sean Jackson was handed the first night’s solo. An intense dancer, Jackson hits the boards hard with a fervor that let the audience know he was serious.
It’s always interesting to watch the solos as they reveal the souls of the artists.
But my favorites are the consuming group dances, particularly the trios that hammered home the truism that tap is a form of communication.
In “Time to Step,” Smith, Howard and Michela Marino Lerman reacted to each other’s rhythms as if it were a conversation. In yet another trio, this time with Arnold, the dancers tried to outdo each other with rhythm and steps, pushing each other beyond their comfort zones.
But no matter what they did, the dancers owned it.
That’s the great thing about tap. Even in the choreographed numbers, when the dancers do the same step, every dancers does them a bit differently.
That’s why tap matches so perfectly with jazz. Like the music, tap is mutable, with no right or wrong stifling its creative growth.
So it’s true that anybody can get it. And everyone should.