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Rising to the Tap
a Dance Drama
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Adam Koplan & Andrew Nemr, music by Or Matias

COMPANY : The Flying Carpet Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 5535

SHOWING : July 04, 2019 - July 06, 2019

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

THE FLYING CARPET THEATRE in partnership with THEATRICAL OUTFIT presents "Rising To The Tap" – tap virtuoso Andrew Nemr’s breathtaking solo show. Audiences journey through the dramatic departure of Andrew’s parents from war-torn Lebanon, to his victimization at the hands of bullies during his childhood in New Jersey, to his eventual mentorship under legendary tap greats Jimmy Slyde, Savion Glover and Gregory Hines, leading to a radical new understanding of himself and his own racial identity.


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REVIEWS

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Tapping In
by playgoer
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
3.5
"Rising to the Tap" is a one-man autobiographical show giving the highlights of Andrew Nemr’s life. The only child of Lebanese immigrants, he experienced bullying in his youth and took to tap-dancing, with the movie "Tap" acting as his main inspiration to make a career out of it. As a young teen, he was taken into the fold of well-known tap dancers, including Savion Glover, and performed with them up until the time he was excluded from the all-black "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk." Since then, he has worked with various troupes (including one founded by Savion Glover) and now tours his one-man show.

We learn about his youth and about his parents and get the biographical run-down of his life through the death of Gregory Hines, but we don’t get to learn much about him as a person in the current day. He gets to showcase his amazing tap-dancing skills and tell interesting stories, but we’re left with the impression that the loner he was as a child may also be a loner today.

Mr. Nemr is a fine public speaker, and it’s very impressive that he manages to talk so much and so well in a performance filled with strenuous dance solos. He may not be an actor in the classical sense, but in this autobiographical show he is himself, and that’s all that’s really necessary. His dancing is what wows. We know it’s the end of the show when his last dance pulls out all the stops, leaving him too winded for us to expect a spoken coda.

The story and the dances aren’t terribly well-integrated. There are a couple of early sections where dialogue before the dance number sets up a situation, and then the dance interprets the situation in non-verbal form. It’s a bit clunky in the section where he reads a list of his personal characteristics as a child, then dances the list and crosses items off it, but for the most part the dramatic sequences and the dances co-exist nicely.

The physical production is what one would expect of a small-scale touring show. There are two barstools and four 4’x8’ wooden platforms on the stage, with a projection screen behind. Matt Oliner’s lighting design generally follows Mr. Nemr as he travels around the playing area. Music, composed by Or Matias, accompanies the dances, and Jaz Dixon’s sound board operation pumps up the volume of the pre-recorded tracks to sometimes distressing levels. The music should be the background for Mr. Nemr’s tap rhythms; here, it’s more of a foreground sound.

"Rising to the Tap" feeds on the strength of The Flying Carpet Theatre, which specializes in collaborations, such as one-man autobiographical shows. The production is tweaked in each new run, so what has been seen at Theatrical Outfit may not be what audiences see in the future.

There’s a troubling racial dynamic in the story. Tap dancing developed as a black art form, and a white dancer (even a Middle Eastern one) cannot be fully integrated into its traditions. "Rising to the Tap" shows the struggles of someone who has only sporadically felt part of a group, and who has had to resort to dancing out his feelings to make his way through life. Let the dance continue! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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