Just a week ahead of Madi Gras, the sounds of New Orleans are coming to Savannah.
The New Orleans band “The Jump Hounds” and Savannah-based tap dance company Tap That Brass is producing ‘Let’s Jump!’, a concert that is bringing an evening of tap dance and New Orleans music to Savannah on Feb. 24 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Ben Tucker Theater at the Savannah Cultural Arts Center.
“Tap That Brass is excited to partner with our friends The Jump Hounds for Let’s Jump!,” said Nora Clark, President and Founder of Tap That Brass. “This concert will be held the week before Mardi Gras, and what better way to celebrate than with a night of dancing to incredible New Orleans jump swing.”
This show started as an idea before Covid. Clark had moved back to Savannah from New Orleans and she had a group of students here that was interested in tap dancing.
“I wanted to bring something to the city that I was seeing a lot of in New Orleans that really doesn’t exist here. This is a very new concept for the city of Savannah. In New Orleans, you see tap dancers fairly regularly,” said Clark.
In 2014, Nora Clark met Adam Arredondo at a gig in New Orleans where he was playing trumpet. She introduced herself as a tap dancer and was invited to improvise with the band. That introduction led them to their co-creation of Tap That Brass in 2015.
“Tap That Brass” is an educational non-profit dedicated to promoting and preserving the art of tap dance.
Along with providing training and rehearsals free of charge, Tap That Brass teaches dancers music theory and how to communicate with musicians and accompany a band as a percussionist.
They say this fundraiser concert will help them continue to offer training services to students.
Understanding that tap dance is a unique audio-visual performance art form, Tap That Brass was formed to embrace and explore tap and live music collaboration.
“They’re both important, but the focus is different. We’re approaching tap dance for a show like this from an educational music place and also recognizing the art form as something that’s visual as well as audible. That’s what’s so cool about tab dance,” said Clark.
Building off of that concept of tap dancing being an audio and visual performance, Clark and Arredondo thought it would be a great idea to do a collaborative show with her dancers in Savannah and Arredondo’s new band The Jump Hounds.
The Jump Hounds is a New Orleans–based sextet that focusses on “jump,” the jazz-based rhythm and blues that connected the gap between swing and rock & roll. The band plays a mix of Jump Era classics and original compositions to keep this frequently overlooked style of music alive.
“When Arredondo and I formed Tap That Brass we were really interested in composition at first. He was the brass and we would remove the drummer and put in tap dancers as the percussionist. That is very hard to do,” said Clark.
Through a series of trial and error and creative exploration Clark discovered a way to create the percussion sound that she wanted using tap.
“On a drum kit, you have symbols and you have tone in a bass and you have all of these tools to create the melody within the percussion but as tap dancers, we have two sounds, we have tone, but there’s much less that really is equal to a drum kit. It took a lot of work on my part to make songs sound full,” said Clark.
Tap That Brass seeks to continue to expand the full potential of percussive dance by blending the musical role of the tap dancer with other musicians. In addition to learning the art form Clark wants her students and other people to know the origin and history of tap dance itself.
“Tap dance is an American art form that was born when enslaved people in the American colonies had to use foot and body percussion after their drums were taken away. It is important for people to understand where that art form really came from and why it is important in our history as a way to survive and communicate,” said Clark.