A festival gem has been uncovered in Jared Grimes. He captivated his audience the moment he stepped on stage and held its attention for a little over an hour, his arms swinging and his feet so clearly articulating rhythms that it felt like each time his foot struck the floor, he was communicating a story of his art form as well as his own personal story.
Tap, a recorded narration states, must honor its past but continue to build upon the genre in order to stay alive. As he made his way across the stage with subtle shifts of dynamic percussion and a dazzling smile to boot, he was joined by DeWitt Fleming Jr. on drums and the two began to converse with their riffs, in a language all their own but universal at the same time. At the end, Grimes sits and croons “I can’t give you anything but love,” and we realize this is as much about music as dancing.
With each section, other members of his crew join Grimes and it is clear that each possess a star quality close to their leader. Karida Griffith is a radiant soloist in the classic Broadway tap number danced to “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from the show “Funny Girl.” Griffith’s generous performance was utterly entertaining, and she was joined by Grimes and Dewitt who continued with a humorous banter in a dynamic duet to Duke Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm.”
Next Grimes moved from Broadway showmanship into a more contemporary style, hip-hop, exchanging his tap shoes for sneakers. In the end, he returned to tap, a clear winner in the competition.
Here, it is visible how the percussion of tap so naturally moves into the whole body, and the four dancers, including the lovely Robyn Baltzer, executed this crossover immaculately and showed how the different styles inform one another.
A highlight at the end was an improvisation between the four dancers who interacted like jazz musicians, each allowing the other a solo to show off their singular talents. The evening was over too soon, as there was undoubtedly much more talent still left to see.
Eliza Ingle is a dance professor at the College of Charleston.