Friday, December 16, 2011

Tap [DVD]


Have you ever seen the Nicholas Brothers dance? If you haven't, take a look at some of their clips on YouTube. You might want to start with their famous performance in Stormy Weather (of course, you can borrow Stormy Weather from the library and watch the whole film). I'm also quite fond of Lucky Number, a charming song and dance routine performed by a younger Fayard and Harold. That's some fine dancing.

Tap is a 1989 film that celebrates the kind of syncopated, jazz dancing practiced by the Nicholas Brothers. Gregory Hines stars as Max Washington, a talented tap dancer who gave up dance for what he saw as a more profitable life as a burglar, got caught and went to prison, and then rediscovered dancing as a way to cope with his solitary confinement. The story follows Max after his release, and as he is reunited with old friends, all of whom seem to have an opinion on how he should live his life.

There is some great dancing in Tap. This is hardly surprising given the cast. In addition to the talented Gregory Hines, we also find a number of old tap greats, including Harold Nicholas (of the Nicholas Brothers!), Jimmy Slyde (of the Slyde Brothers), and most recognizably, Sammy Davis Junior of Rat Pack fame, in his last film role. Representing a younger generation, we also see a young Savion Glover. (Glover would eventually do the choreography for the the dancing penguins in Happy Feet, a fact that is hard to forget, though it is insignificant compared to his other accomplishments.)

Tap isn't a great film. It too often falls into cinematic cliches, and its final scene, which is supposed to be an inspiring combination of rock and tap, is a disappointment. Still, it is an enjoyable film, worth watching if you love dance, and a wonderful reminder of the great tradition of jazz tap, which has, sadly, fallen out of cinematic favor.

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