'Swing Shift: Tapping into Rhythm'

Back in the heyday of jazz and the golden age of Hollywood, tap dancing was everywhere. Big bands brought tap dancers with them when they traveled. Practically every musical featured tap dance numbers, especially Busby Berkeley movies with their long lines of tappers dancing in unison.

Tap is making a comeback. Rogue Valley audiences will have a chance to see two nights of tap dancing this weekend when a mother and daughter tap dance team, Denise Pennington Scheerer and Angel Pennington, come to town. They will be joined by Rogue Valley tap dancers and jazz musicians for "Swing Shift: Tapping into Rhythm," a jazz tap concert at 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. — and 2, at the Black Swan Theatre, Pioneer and Main St., Ashland. Doors open at 8 p.m.

This concert, originally scheduled for the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall last summer, was postponed due to a death in the Pennington family. This two-night-only concert is a reunion of the Los Angeles-based tap dance duo with jazz quartet leader Tom Freeman and Ashland tap dancers Suzanne Seiber and Jim Giancarlo. This group has previously performed together at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, Carpenter Hall and at Rogue Music Theatre.

Also on the program will be Glena Rasmussen, owner of Ivy Hall Dance Studio in Medford; Roxanne Southwick, a Rogue Valley dancer with a bachelor's degree in dance from Santa Clara University, will be performing in the group dances. Wen Mull from Los Angeles will dance and sing as well.

Tap dancers, like other dancers, perform using the body as their instrument. But as Seiber pointed out, with the connection tap dancers have to the sound created on the surface they are dancing on, they become musical instruments as well, augmenting the music they are dancing to.

Audiences may be familiar with the more aggressive tap dancing styles found in shows like "Stomp" and "Tap Dogs." "Denise has harkened back to the more subtle and exciting rhythm style," Seiber noted. "It's more of a jazz thing than hip-hop."

Giancarlo is artistic director of Oregon Cabaret Theatre, where he directs and choreographs many of the venue's productions. Seiber has performed and choreographed for many local theatres including OCT, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Rogue Music Theatre.

Wen has recorded with Azteca, Alice Cooper, Fanny, Kenny Rankin, KiKi Dee, Martin Mull, Spencer Davis, and Boz Scaggs. She sang and played on Santana albums, and was back up for Melissa Manchester, Ringo Starr and ELO. She studied tap with Steve Zee and Denise Pennington, and will join Denise and Angel on several dance numbers in the show.

The jazz quartet of Tom Freeman, Paul Jenny, John Taylor and Dave Miller is coming together especially for this event.

Freeman is a percussionist and sound engineer who plays in the Rogue Valley Symphony and has played in many Rogue Valley bands, including PJQ and Molasses, has been the band leader for many stage shows including "Sophisticated Ladies" at the Britt Festival, and has played for OSF's "Three Penny Opera."

Jenny has played with Freeman as a duo for many years and also has performed in many stage shows, including OSF ("A Taste of Honey," "Three Penny Opera," "The Entertainer"), Camelot Theatre (as Bing Crosby in "Spotlight on Bing Crosby," and in "The 1940's Radio Hour"), and at OCT in "Pump Boys and Dinettes" and as the musical director of "archy and mehitabel" in 1989. He also has played in many local bands as well as teaching jazz history through Elderhostel at SOU.

Taylor was the musical director, conductor and keyboardist for Cirque du Soleil's "O" in Las Vegas. In his career as pianist, keyboardist, composer and musical director he has worked with artists such as Jennifer Lopez, De Barge, Rick Astley and Expose. He served as keyboardist and musical director for OCT's "Five Guys Named Moe," "Plaid Tidings" and the current production, "archy and mehitabel." He also is the co-founder of Children's Musical Theatre of Oregon.

Miller has played for many "Spotlight" shows at Camelot Theatre (Spotlight on Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Julie London) and plays with the Jump Daddies, Jazz Eclipse, Los Salseros and the Rogue Valley Symphony. He also teaches bass at SOU.

Tap dancers are asked to bring their shoes to the show. There will be a traditional shim-sham at the end with all dancers invited to join in the fun.

"Denise has choreographed a group number &

a jazz piece &

that is expandable with the band and the dancers," Seiber said. "The musicians and dancers trade back and forth." Seiber herself will be dancing a musical theater number based on "Tap Your Troubles Away."

Other dance numbers on the program include: "Billie's Bounce," by Charlie Parker; "Taking a Chance On Love," by Vernon Duke in which Seiber sings, Jenny plays horn, Denise, Angel and Seiber do the Honi Coles Softshoe; "Organ Grinder's Swing," by Jimmy Smith; "Pick Up the Pieces," (contemporary piece made famous by the Average White Band; "Night Train Blues," by Jimmy Forest; "Unsquare Dance," by Dave Brubeck; "Basin Street Blues," by Spencer Williams; and "Una Mas Latin Jazz."

Denise and Angel have performed together as a duo at Four Queens Hotel in Las Vegas, the Jazz Bakery and the Ford Amphitheater in Los Angeles. Denise has studied and performed with tap dance legends Eddie Brown and Sam Weber as well as performing with the Jazz Tap Ensemble.

In Los Angeles, Denise works with Steve Zee and the newly formed tap company "L.A. Ironworks." She danced at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas before moving to Seattle where she founded and performed with "That's Jazz," a jazz dance company, and choreographed productions for many Seattle theatres.

Denise teaches workshops and master classes and is an instructor at Loyola Marymount University, the Colburn Performing Arts School, Hama's Dance Center and the Tap Academy. She will teach a master class at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, in the Dance Room (PE 132) of McNeil Pavilion at SOU, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. Cost for the tap master class is $25, $20 if pre-registered.

Tickets for "Swing Shift" are $20 general admission, $15 for students. A group ticket special is offered: buy five tickets and the sixth ticket is free. Tickets are available at Paddington Station in Ashland or at the door. For information, group tickets, or to register for the master class, call Seiber at 482-6080.

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