Ben Vereen honored by the Chicago Tap Theatre

chicago-tap-theatre1_photo-by-leni-manaa-hoppenworth

Chicago Tap Theatre is a major part of the arts community in the city of Chicago. Please take a moment and check out their website for performances and their mission www.chicagotaptheatre.com that’s full of video, photos, reviews and a history of the Company.

Why did you decide to honor Ben Vereen?

Mr. Vereen has long been a hero of mine. It is impossible to watch him dance and not get an entire story from every movement he makes. The smallest twitch of a wrist or flick of a leg speaks volumes about the character he is portraying and the world they inhabit. Every year Chicago Tap Theatre creates a new Story Show, using dance to tell complete and compelling stories. We often look to the work of people like Ben Vereen that have mastered non-verbal storytelling. The chance to honor him is an amazing opportunity to thank him for everything he has done for the world of dance theater.

What does the Chicago Tap Theater do in the community?

Aside from presenting three shows in the city every season, the company is incredibly proud of its outreach work. For the past seven years we have partnered with Chicago Public Schools to present our groundbreaking “Feel the Rhythm” program, which brings tap education to children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The school that we teach at brings in kids from all over Chicago, South, West and North Sides of the city, so the students in the program are incredibly diverse in their experiences and backgrounds. Often, we are the first arts programming they have had access to that is created specifically for them.

What other major performances do you have scheduled for the windy city?

This coming season we have three big shows for Chicagoans. First up is our inclusive Holiday Show, Tidings of Tap, known for being the only Holiday dance show to feature Chanukah and Christmas dances in the same show. After that we are performing with two tap dance companies from Europe, including one that fuses Spanish guitar and tap dance in new ways. Finally, we are presenting our new Story Show, Changes: A Science Fiction Tap Opera featuring music by David Bowie. It’s worth mentioning that ALL of our shows are performed exclusively with live music! We employ some of the finest jazz, soul and funk musicians in the city of Chicago for our performances.

What is the audition process like to participate with the Chicago Tap Theater?

Auditions are held every August and are, we hope, fun for the dancers auditioning. They learn three short dances in three hours while we watch them and look for the qualities we need: a high degree of technique and the ability to hold an audiences’ attention.

Does the organization mentor? If so, what is that process like?

We have an apprenticeship program. Every year we take 2 – 4 dance apprentices who study with us, learn the dances, and perform in Chicago (but not on tour). We meet with them periodically and talk to them about how to improve themselves as dancers and how to work within a professional dance company. We also occasionally have administrative interns that work in the office and learn about arts administration.

Where do you see the organization in the next five years?

We are beginning to tour more and more, which is great. The money from touring allows us to increase our production values in Chicago without substantially increasing our ticket prices. We would like to expand our presence in more of the city, including increasing our programming in the South and West sides of the city. We are also planning on developing our outreach program more to also include children or adults with other sensory issues, including piloting a program to teach tap dance to the blind and visually impaired.

Taroue Brooks
Taroue Brooks

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