26th Rhythm World Festival underway

Rhythm World Festival by Chicago Human Rhythm ProjectThe Rhythm World Festival, a popular event series hosted by the Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP), is currently underway. Dubbed the “oldest and most comprehensive festival of American tap and contemporary percussive arts in the world”, it is taking place through July 24 with a variety of events set at CHRP’s American Rhythm Center.


In the first year of a five-year cycle, CHRP’s annual summer festival, directed by CHRP Founder and Director Lane Alexander, is shining the spotlight on the talented performers, choreographers and teachers who have “grown up” with CHRP and the masters who first inspired them.


“The children and teens who studied with us 10 to 20 years ago are not children anymore,” Alexander said in a statement released earlier this year. “They are winning MacArthur Fellowship (Genius) Awards (Michelle Dorrance), choreographing on Broadway and with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (Jared Grimes), performing in historic Broadway revivals (Lee Howard and Karissa Royster) and making new works that are changing our art form forever (Jumaane Taylor’s Supreme Love and Zada Cheeks’ Diabolus). We are devoting the next several years to exploring their experiences—who inspired them and why—as well as how that inspiration is affecting the work they are creating now. We’ll provide them with classrooms and theaters to pass this inspiration to new dancers and dance audiences.”


Upcoming events include Rhythm World students performing a showcase at 8 pm on Tuesday, July 19 at Curtiss Hall in the Fine Arts Building. Then, on July 20-23 at 7:30 pm in Edlis Neeson Theater, the JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance concerts are presented. These are the crowning events of Rhythm World, featuring a host of extraordinary foot drummers and percussive arts masters.


The first program, on Wednesday, July 20, presents the next generation of tap talent from across the country, including the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble, Northwest Tap Exchange and Footprints Tap Ensemble. They’ll show their best moves as part of the Youth Tap Ensemble Conference’s 15th Anniversary concert. CHRP will present the legendary Maurice Hines with its JUBA! Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Field. Proceeds from this special evening will support CHRP’s Tap Scholar program, which provides scholarships to talented, deserving youth.


Next, headlining two nights (Thursday, July 21 and Saturday, July 23), Jumaane Taylor and M.A.D.D. Rhythms will perform Supreme Love to the beats of Afrika Bambaataa’s Universal Zulu Nation and the eternal music of John Coltrane, played live by soprano saxophonist Rajiv Halim and his quartet. On Thursday, July 21, CHRP’s resident ensemble BAM! reprises Prisms by Lane Alexander and premieres work by BAM!’s own Marty Bronson and Zada Cheeks. On Saturday, July 23, the Institute For The Rhythmic Arts premieres a work by Bessie Award-winner Nicholas Young. 


Plus, on Friday, July 22, the performer Groundhog expands the musical and social exchange of tap in a multi-generational ensemble work originally created as a solo. He pairs an exploration of historical hoofer Earl “Groundhog” Basie and other historical figures with Linda Sohl Ellison, whose performance marks her the 35th season of her company, Rhapsody in Taps, accompanied by Monti Ellison and the Eric Hochberg Trio.


Tickets for the July 20 performance, a fundraiser for the Tap Scholar Award program, are $50 and $100. Call 312-542-2477 or visit chicagotap.org. Tickets to the JUBA! performance are $25-35. Call 312-397-4010 or visit mcachicago.org for tickets. As performances tend to sell out every year, early purchase is advised.


Photo: CHRP’s resident ensemble BAM! in performance. BAM! will perform as part of Rhythm World Festival on Thursday, July 21. Photo courtesy of CHRP.