To celebrate his 75th birthday, dancer Bill Evans decided to put on his own show. Presented by RDT at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Evans’ show mixed dance styles and history to give a glimpse of his life as a dancer.
The show started with Bill seated downstage, where he went between each number, to explain some of the history of himself and each dance; it’s also where he channeled Mr. Rogers and changed his shoes. Evans, along with Savion Glover and Brenda Bufalino, was named one of the top three tap dancers in the world by a Dance Magazine Readers Poll, so he fittingly started the show with a stylish tap number, “Three Preludes”. His tap dancing was at times smooth and elegant and at the next moment was quick and very rhythmic. He made use of his whole body and sometimes had the audience not looking at his feet, which is not easy to do when tap shoes are involved.
“Excursions” was similar to “Three Preludes,” each had 3 parts and were performed to classical music, but both were well done and spread throughout the show. What was most impressive was that at 75, both dances were filled with pickups and grab offs. That’s not easy at any age, and to have them performed so cleanly was fantastic.
Bill told the audience that his first dance passion was tap, but at the time it wasn’t a valued form of dance. He had to diversify his technique and moved first to ballet and then modern. “Saintly Passion”, was an example of his modern choreography and a segment from a larger dance piece from 1997. It wasn’t the strongest number in the show, but did have some lovely moments, including Bill seated on a bench upstage performing slight, angular movements.
In the middle of the show, the audience was shown a “flashback” video from 1984. While a bit blurry, the dance “Bounce Boy” was a fun glimpse into Bill Evans as a younger dancer. His energy was high and his kicks were even higher. The dance was jazzy and funny and a great addition to the show.
The final two numbers in the show were unexpected physical comedy. “See You Around”, choreographed by Claire Porter and Sabatino Verlezza, had Evans dancing with his partner, Don Halquist. The two were dressed as business men in suits and ties and carrying file folders. The dance was reminiscent of the opening scene from ‘’The Music Man when the traveling salesmen are on a train talking about what they sell, only their scene was on an elevator talking about the people they work with and where they might have disappeared to. The physical comedy was hysterical and their sanity seemed to devolve each time they got onto the elevator. It was a well thought out and well performed piece.“Interview,” also choreographed by Claire Porter, saw Evans at a job interview. While not as strong as “See You Around”, it still had moments of great humor.
Bill Evans gave himself the best birthday present a dancer could have; the chance to perform and have fun. If you missed this performance, but want to see a bit more of Bill Evans, don’t miss his tap workshop at Rose Wagner on August 8. Classes range from beginning to advanced.
Carly Anderson is a tapper who teaches classes at Janet Gray Studios.