Tap dancers advocate evolving art form at Bay Area Tap Festival 

Tap dancing — it’s more than Fred Astaire’s slick moves and more than 5-year-olds in sequined costumes scraping their feet on the floor while exercising “jazz hands.”

It’s a vibrant pursuit in which the feet become a rhythm section, and the body transforms into a two-fold performer.

Still not convinced? The Bay Area Tap Festival may change that.

Presented by Stepology, a nonprofit group committed to ushering tap into the 21st century, the festival, which features workshops, panel discussions and performances, runs today through Sunday in The City.

John Kloss, Stepology’s founder, emphasizes tap’s relevance and its ability to accept and change with the times.

“The cool thing about tap dancing is that although it evolved hand in hand with jazz, it’s very comfortable with a variety of music genres or no music at all,” Kloss says.

Kloss, who began dancing at a young age and revisited tap more seriously in his 20s, is among the performers in the festival’s finale, titled the Bay Area Rhythm Exchange, at the Herbst Theatre today and Saturday.

“The concert is a fun show,” Kloss says. “It incorporates all sorts of genres and cultural elements of today, rather than thinking of tap as a throwback.”

Résumés of the Exchange dancers and musicians are impressive. The show’s performers have worked with “Riverdance” and Savion Glover’s Tony Award-winning tap musical “Bring in ’da Noise, Bring in ’da Funk.” The Barbary Coast Cloggers are also on the bill.

The technique is rigorous and exceptional, but the overall spirit of the show is playful, and true to the inherent character of tap.

“There will be some choreography, but most of the show will fall under the category of structured improvisation,” Kloss says. The tappers tend to choose an array of music genres to perform to, including hip-hop, jazz, classical or silence.

Additional festival programs run through Sunday at City Dance Studios Annex, 1420 Harrison St., San Francisco. Visit www.stepology.com for the full schedule.


Bay Area Tap Festival

Where: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today-Saturday
Tickets: $21
Contact: (415) 392-4400, (415) 294-4941, www.cityboxoffice.com, www.stepology.com


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Lauren Gallagher

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