WAF Young Reviewer - Tap Dance History
One Sunday afternoon, I visited the National Opera Studio in Wandsworth to watch a contemporary tap dancer from London named Petra Haller perform with London-based Australian musician Meg Morley on piano, as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe.
What initially interested me about their performance was that it was to be completely improvised; being an enjoyer and creator of improvised music, watching professional musicians enter a fluid, unlimited creative space sounded like an exciting source of inspiration for me. And it certainly was, as the talent of the performance was astonishing, allowing me to see the true potential of what I could achieve in the art of improvisation.
With evident musical experience, both performers had virtually no difficulty in finding a common ground of synchronized rhythms and expansive tones, with Meg Morley restlessly playing a variety of melodies on her grand piano, sometimes even playing notes from inside the piano, and Petra Haller responding to each new pattern with an instinctive and careful yet playfully adventurous tap. What defined their performance was communication and listening; Petra Haller would occasionally stop performing altogether to listen in on what Meg Morley was playing, and vice versa.
Although their skills were through the roof, they did not give in to seriousness during this performance, often smirking at different points out of sheer enjoyment, which almost placed them on the same level as the audience.
After the performance, Petra Haller screened a film that informed the audience of tap dancing’s roots in the slave trade, which perked my interest, and a history of tap dancing in mainstream American culture was then screened. Whilst the film was an interesting detour that offered abundant context into the culture of tap dancing, I found the information Petra Haller was sharing to be an even more interesting lesson on tap dancing history and the reasons behind why it started.
As a whole, the show both broadened my knowledge of tap dancing and increased my interest in improvisation, specifically in genres such as jazz. The afternoon after the show, I began playing improvised guitar, with the same freewheeling intentions of exploration and variety in mind.
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