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Dancers in squares of light. Drawing by Carolyn Newberger

‘More Forever’ sings and swings at Jacob’s Pillow

By Monday, Jul 29, 2019 Arts & Entertainment

Think of this performance as taking place in a smoky nightspot during the Harlem renaissance. Music and dance unfurl in their many moods, yet always encased in the swirling smoke and the ambient noise of a crowded club busy with rendezvous, quiet deals and concentrated creativity. Jazz is new, and happening on the spot. In our fictional nightspot, there’s a sense of improvisation and experimentation, both on the keyboard and in the movements of the bodies on the dance floor.

“More Forever” starts with a lone pianist, Conrad Tao, in a hazy, darkened hall, playing contemplatively as though to himself before the club opens and the crowd comes in. He picks at riffs, experiments with loose lines, new ideas, perhaps of what’s to come. Then silence.

We hear the sand, a kind of gritty scratching in our ears, shoes rubbing sand into the floor. The piano joins in with a single note, then more, some with electronic effects. The lights rise slightly to reveal a dancer in front of the piano, Caleb Teicher, with the loose upper body and focused feet of a tap dancer, spelling out his message in the sand.

More dancers enter, from closed fists drizzling a stream of sand on the floor, occupying squares of yellow light, each communicating a brief message of tap and scrape before departing.

Jabu Graybeal and Conrad Tao with toy piano. Drawing by Carolyn Newberger

From here, the evening-length performance intensified through changing scenes of tap (in shoes without metal taps), vernacular jazz and Lindy hop, in tap-infused solos, sensuous Lindy duos and tight ensembles. Fists extended, they replenished sand as they went, surprising us with ever-changing moods and rhythms, dynamic contrasts, sounds and silences, produced with hands, bodies, feet, piano keys and strings, synthesizer, toy piano and even, toward the end, Caleb Teicher singing plaintively about, to paraphrase, planning to do this and that and not having the time.

“More Forever” developed through a series of workshops at the School at Jacob’s Pillow, where Caleb Teicher began as a student at age 16. A tap prodigy, he dropped out of high school and was a founding member of the Michelle Dorrance Dance Company, where he danced for seven years. Now, at age 26, he has formed his own group, Caleb Teicher & Company. Caleb Teicher and Conrad Tao met in 2011, when they were both finalists in the National YoungArts Foundation competition. Tao, a pianist and composer, has been described as one of the most prodigiously talented pianists of his generation.

“More Forever” is a true conversation between Tao and the dancers, always with a sense of freshness, discovery and collaboration. To see and hear Tao and the Caleb Teicher & Company dancers in excerpts from “More Forever,” please click here.

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