Three Chicago dance companies are headed our way, led by an ex-pat Tulsan who is determined to bring dance and dance knowledge to the masses.
The companies -- Be The Groove, The Cartier Collective, and BAM! -- come to town as part of a two-day series of workshops culminating in a Saturday evening performance of percussive dance Oct. 6.
For the most part, according to Kristi Burris, the aforementioned ex-pat, that means tap dance.
"Tap is considered percussive dance, because it's like foot drumming," she said. "But 'percussive dance' is actually just more of a general description."
Why a more general description works better is due to a couple of factors.
"There's a preconceived notion about tap dance," she said. "I think there's always a perception that people have seen Broadway tap and think that's all there is. But the companies today are influenced by modern dance and jazz dance, so there's a little bit of that influence in the tap dance. People who only know Broadway-style tap dance will see what tap dance can be. There are so many different styles, and it's evolved so much more. I think most people will be surprised at what the tap companies are doing."
Also, in Saturday night's show, there will be more than just tap dancing going on. One of the companies in particular brings more to the floor than just foot drumming.
"Be the Groove is a movement- and rhythm-based company," Burris said. "They'll be drumming on trash cans, and they use vocal percussion and their bodies -- anything you can use to communicate rhythm, they use."
So even if tap isn't your thing, you have to admit that sounds pretty cool.
The concert tops off two days of classes and workshops in which Tulsa dancers will have the opportunity to work under the tutelage of some master instructors.
And really, that's where Dance Profusion Project was born.
"This is something I created in 2008," Burris said. "It originally started as master classes every year with Chicago-based instructors."
This is a series of opportunities Burris did not have, and she's eager to share it with up-and-coming dancers.
"When I was growing up in Tulsa, dance wasn't as accessible as it is today," she said. "I had to go to St. Louis to attend my first tap festival, and I wanted to create a platform where I could bring what I've learned and what I know and the people I've met and worked with in Chicago back here.
I just wanted to share that with my home state. It really did come from a place of wanting to sort of give back to the community that I came from."
There will be 12 different dance classes offered -- not just tap, but also ballet, modern dance, hip-hop and the like -- and those enrolled in the weekend workshop have their choice.
"I have instructors coming in to teach jazz and ballet and hip hop and all forms of dance. The classes are an hour and 15 minutes long, and the students just choose. It's like a buffet," she said.
However, it's not a bottomless plate.
"I limit the classes to about 20 students, because it's not about putting a lot of students in a class, and it's not about learning a dance combination and walking out," she said. "To me, it's about getting a quality education experience. If there are a lot of students in the class, the instructor can't give feedback or even see what's going on."
Several of the instructors are directors of the visiting companies, as well as other Chicago-based groups, so the Saturday show will be a way for the students in the workshops to see just exactly what their instructors are doing outside of the classroom.
"This concert is kind of like a showcase to show off those directors' companies," Burris said.
This concert will also show off some local talent. Burris said that of all the dances on display at Saturday's show, she choreographed two of them. One of those uses four hand-picked high school-aged dancers who learned the dance in a period of hours back in August.
"We learned the dance in about three hours, and it's about a 4-minute song," said Heather Rasmussen. She's a junior at Owasso High School and one of the four that Burris chose. "That's what it's like in the professional world sometimes, so Kristi wanted us to see what it was like in that world."
Burris doesn't deny this account.
"I came down in August, I set a piece on them, and then I ran away and said, 'Practice a lot,'" she laughed. "They're going to perform that piece in the show."
Rasmussen said that while this isn't exactly a daily occurrence in the dance world, it's worked out well for the most part.
"Sometimes it's hard, like whenever you have a question because she's not there in the studio," she said.
However, Burris shot the dance on video and put it up on a private YouTube channel for the quartet to access when they needed it.
This has allowed for the dancers to practice on their own, which is good and bad. They come from as far away as Bartlesville, so getting together for daily rehearsals is kind of out of the question. Largely, solo practice helps, though anything needing a second person can't really get worked on.
"There are some partnering things, because there's one boy in it, and he gets all the attention, but they can practice a lot of the rest of it by themselves," Burris said.
Rasmussen and friends have also gotten to be exposed to different kinds of tap dancing throughout this process.
"Tap is something I've grown up doing," she said. "It's a pretty basic form of dance, but you see with different tap teachers, they have different styles. It's still tap, but it's stylized differently."
All of it comes together Saturday after the weekend of classes. Rasmussen is ready.
"I'm excited to work with these companies, and I feel like Kristi has given us all the tools we need to be able to do this," she said. "There's no reason to be nervous. We're ready."
Classes will be held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 5 and 6, at Liggett Studio, 308 S. Kenosha Ave., in downtown Tulsa, and the Saturday night concert will be at the Tulsa Little Theater, 1511 S. Delaware Ave., at 7:30pm.
Class registration and tickets are available online at danceprofusionproject.com. Burris recommends signing up early for classes rather than doing so at the door to ensure dancers get slots in the classes they want.
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