Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 25, 2022

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, “Music From The Sole”

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through July 24, 2022
by Josephine Sarnelli

It seems appropriate for “Music From The Sole” to start their performance with a procession of the musicians and dancers through the audience, reminiscent of Brazilian Carnival.  The entire program was an unusual fusion of American tap dance with Latin music that somehow seemed totally natural.

Leonardo Sandoval, co-founder of the ensemble with Gregory Richardson, hails from Brazil as a tap dancer and choreographer. Richardson, sharing Sandoval’s passion for Brazilian music composed the music entitled “I Didn’t Come to Stay” for the hour-long performance. They capitalized on the fact that tap is both dance and music and, therefore, incorporated it as an integral part of the percussive section of this composition.

Photo by Jamie Kraus
Traditional tap dance aficionados were not disappointed by the outstanding performance by the eight dancers.  The high energy, rapid tap rhythms included flawlessly performed over-the-top jumps and single-foot wings. Likewise, ballroom dancers could recognize samba steps, such as the volta, interspersed with shuffles and flaps. Of particular interest was the use of very nontraditional arm motions that drew upon the Latin and Afro-Cuban influences, along with jazz, tap and balletic movements.

The five musicians were all talented in their own right.  In particular, flutist Magela Herrera and cellist/bassist Jennifer Vincent added a haunting quality to the music. The musicians also participated in the vocal portions of the composition.

No evening of tap would be complete without a “dueling” between dancers.  Gerson Lanza and Ana Tomioshi each gave excellent solo performances before entering into a tête-à-tête. But in keeping with the tone of collaboration, it sounded much more like an expressive conversation between the two dancers than a competition.

One sequence drew from the Juba style of African-American dance in which dancers performed barefoot and relied on stomping and slapping their feet on the floor.  Through hambone motions of patting parts of their body, they created the illusion of instrumentation for the audience.

Leonardo Sandoval’s magnificent solo offered “scraping” sounds not often heard in contemporary tap performances.  He utilized these for the group choreography also and it was a refreshing look back to an earlier time in tap dancing.

Richardson and Sandoval creative endeavor grew out of playing music and dancing together for donations (known as “busking”) on the streets of New York.  In addition to practicing their artistic skills, it must have also developed their talents for holding a crowd.  As the audience gave the performers a standing ovation, the ensemble exited the same way that they had entered, releasing colorful streamers over the audience.  The evening was truly a celebration of the ongoing evolution of tap dance!