Windy City Rhythms Goes Global Review – WOW

Barbatuques Circle Photo: Chicago Human Rhythm Project

Seeing, hearing, feeling this performance may be the only way to describe its magic. Our evening was full of surprises!  And what surprises!  We—and by that I do mean the entire audience—were captivated by what we saw and heard and felt—the beat.

BAM! Photo: William Frederking

For openers, the elegant Vijay Tellis-Nayak Trio providing the musical context for the graceful tap dancing of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project's (CHRP) resident tap ensemble, BAM!

BAM! Photo: Jennifer Wolfe

Add to that the interactive, constantly changing backdrop and all the elements merged to form one rhythmic impression.  The sound of the taps, punctuate the smooth jazz. 

BAM! Photo: Jennifer Wolfe

The music provided the lilt, grace, lift and sway of the dance and the colorful light show signaled the mood of each piece. The dance was rhythmic, athletic, graceful and percussive—the way the dancers moved was punctuated the way they sounded. And their movement was just this side of ballet.

BAM! Photo:Jennifer Wolfe

BAM! boasts one of the most diverse repertories of American tap dances in the world. Directed by Lane Alexander and Kristi Burris, we can look forward to new works by Spanish tap and sand dance master Guillem Alonso, Ted Levy and a collaborative work created by Barbatuques’ lead percussionist, Bruno Buarque in coming 20th anniversary concerts in 2010.

Jason Samuels Smith Photo: Carl McClarty

Next, we were astonished by the energy, agility and--yes! you guessed it!--rhythm of Jason Samuels Smith ( Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk). His feet, arms, legs just fly—and all without musical accompaniment. He plays a drum solo without drums.

Barbatuques Totem Photo: Chicago Human Rhythm Project

And then we were enthralled by the Chicago debut of the Brazilian “body-band” Barbatuques.

Barbatuques Hand Circle Photo: Chicago Human Rhythm Project

These 14 men and women defy boundaries by combining Afro-Brazilian chants, body drumming, stomping feet, chest slaps, mouth vacuums, vocal resonances, video montage and pulsating rhythms.

Barbatuques Face Clapping Photo: Chicago Human Rhythm Project

Amazingly, they create an unpredictable visual and auditory feast full of joyous mayhem and audience interaction.

Barbatuques Hand Circle Photo: Chicago Human Rhythm Project

We were so completely mesmerized, we clapped, shouted, hummed and gladly played along.

Barbatuques Septet Photo: Chicago Human Rhythm Project

At one point, the Barbatuques ran into the audience. One even came and drummed on my knee! Who knew my knee had rhythm? Another surprise!


Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s 2009 season continues with the 19th Annual Rhythm World, the oldest and most comprehensive festival of American tap in the world, July 27–August 9 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, the Fine Arts Building, Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, Roosevelt University’s Ganz Hall, Loyola University and the MCA. The season concludes with Global Rhythms, contemporary percussive arts performances featuring the Chicago debut of Washington D.C.’s Step Afrika!, November 19, 20, 21 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park. For information, visit and check the Chicago-Splash calendar so you won’t miss a beat!

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