Tap, hip hop, Irish step dance, and more mix it up with The Yard

Tap the Yard 2 features tap, hip hop, Irish step dancing, and other forms of rhythmic dance. —Sally Cohn

There is a lot more than your basic shuffle-hop-step going on during The Yard’s upcoming Tap the Yard 2: A Vineyard Festival of Rhythm and Beats. The two-week festival, which commences Thursday, July 25, features some of the freshest, most exciting artists working today in tap, hip hop, Irish step dancing, and other forms of rhythmic dance in multiple shows that vary each night.

Five shows will mix up the various dancers and groups at The Yard’s Patricia N. Nanon Theater. Then, moving to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Performing Arts Center (PAC) next weekend, The Yard presents two special events: an all-tap show on Saturday, August 3 will feature some of the program’s dancers and end with a family tap dance in which all are welcome to the stage to participate, with or without tap shoes.

On Friday, August 2, the featured dancers present an all-star spectacular show preceded by a barbecue at the home of Laura Roosevelt and Charles Silberstein. This special evening is a benefit for The Yard’s Challenge Match initiative.

When The Yard hosted its first tap festival last year, initiated by managing director Alison Manning, they called upon award-winning choreographer and dancer David Parker, whose company, New York City-based The Bang Group, focuses on rhythm-based theatrical dance. Mr. Parker is the ideal curator for the festival given his long and illustrious career in dance and his dedication to percussive dance.

“My dance debut was on the sidewalks of Boston tap dancing on a piece of cardboard at age 17,” said Mr. Parker. “When I moved to New York I worked with a variety of dance companies in all different styles. In my own work I’ve been incorporating all kinds of work. I’ve been running parallel to the tap world. I had always wanted to connect tap to the real dance world.”

Mr. Parker has been honored for his choreography with numerous awards, both national and international, including a Bessie Award. This year he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.

Festival co-curator Ms. Manning also has a history with tap dancing. “I tapped for a couple of companies in New York,” she said. “I have wanted to bring tap to The Yard for a long time. It’s a fun kind of dance that people find accessible.”

She and Mr. Parker have recruited a number of the shining lights of the dance world — from traditional tappers, to those specializing in other rhythmic forms, to a few innovators whose work incorporates multiple styles of dance and theater.

The festival kicks off with a lineup that should give a good taste of the variety of the festival’s programming. On Thursday, July 25, The Bang Group presents new work, along with rhythm tap from Dylan Baker, hip hop from the WonderTwins, and Irish step dancing from Timothy Kochka.

Works by The Bang Group have been presented at many of the major dance venues in New York City as well as in Europe. The troupe’s innovative, smart, and humorous dances incorporate percussive dance, vaudeville, silent film comedy, movie musicals, and classical ballet. During last year’s festival, The Bang Group presented pieces from a very funny new show called “Sisters and Misters” that featured songs from Broadway shows.

The WonderTwins are identical twins from Boston. “They are the most incredible pop and lockers,” said Mr. Parker. “It’s amazing what their bodies can do.” (Pop and lock is a form of breakdancing.) The WonderTwins have won the Apollo Theater competition six times, have performed with Bobby Brown, Queen Latifah, MC Hammer, MC Lyte, KRS One, Public Enemy, and others, and choreographed for New Kids on the Block.

Timothy Kochka is a two-time World Irish Dance Champion & Broadway Riverdance performer. He has appeared at Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and The Joyce Theater in New York.

Dylan Baker, an up-and-coming tapper, dances to contemporary music. Jason Samuels Smith and Derick Grant, who will be featured during the second week of the festival, are two of the established stars of the New York rhythm tap world.

The second week of the festival features Camille A. Brown & Dancers and Michelle Dorrance and her troupe.

Camille Brown’s work “Mr. TOL E. RanCE” examines the role of black performers throughout American history, commenting on stereotyping. The Yard festival features excerpts from that show, which was inspired by Spike Lee’s movie, “Bamboozeled” and Mel Watkins’s book, “On The Real Side: From Slavery to Chris Rock.”

“Camille is a younger African American choreographer who has recently exploded on the dance scene,” said Mr. Parker. “In this show she draws on vaudeville and other minstrel forms showing people in black face and then stripping that away.”

Choreographer and dancer Michelle Dorrance has been called, “one of the most imaginative tap choreographers working today” by The New Yorker magazine. She has won numerous awards for her choreography, including a 2011 Bessie. Ms. Dorrance took part in last year’s Tap The Yard festival.

“Michelle is amazing,” said Mr. Parker. “There’s nobody doing what she’s doing.”

Some of the festival artists have been hosting community classes at The Yard this week. On Thursday and Friday, the WonderTwins will be teaching hip hop and robotics from 9 to 10:30 am.

Tap The Yard events at The Yard begin tonight, July 25 and run through next Thursday, August 1. Tickets are $25, shows start at 8 pm except July 27, 6:30 pm.

Family Tap Jam and performance Saturday, August 3, at the M.V. Regional High School’s PAC, Oak Bluffs, at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $35. Students/seniors and active military receive discounts.

Challenge Match Benefit, Friday, August 2 at the PAC. $75 for show; $175 dinner and show. For more information, call 508-645-9662 or visit dancetheyard.org.