Tapping their creativity

Dance has be­come quite av­ant-garde over the years, but Pam Heth­er­ing­ton and Kat Richter are build­ing their up­com­ing Philly Fringe per­form­ance around a clas­sic style.

(left) Kat Richter shares a laugh with Jaye Al­lis­on dur­ing the tap dance re­hears­al at Gwen­dolyn Bye Stu­dio, Wed­nes­day, Au­gust 3, 2011, Phil­adelphia, Pa. Kat dir­ects the show “Too Darn Hot!”, which will start on Thursday, Septem­ber 8 at So­ci­ety Hill. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

Weird­ness isn’t re­quis­ite for par­ti­cip­a­tion in the Philly Fringe, the an­nu­al more-rad­ic­al spin-off of the Phil­adelphia Live Arts Fest­iv­al, but it cer­tainly seems to help.

This year’s lineup of 200 per­form­ances — at vari­ous ven­ues throughout the city (ex­cept in the North­east) from Sept. 2 to 17 — will fea­ture satir­ic­al ma­gi­cians, cir­cus ac­robats and a guy who says that The Knack — a mid­dling 1970s rock band that sang My Shar­ona — changed his life.

At the oth­er end of the spec­trum, Pam Heth­er­ing­ton and Kat Richter will be in the Fringe too, with their ori­gin­al tap-dance show Too Darn Hot!

And don’t laugh.

Heth­er­ing­ton, a Fox Chase nat­ive, and Richter, a trans­planted cent­ral New Jer­sey­an, are as ser­i­ously artist­ic and in­nov­at­ive about tap as any of the ab­stract-dance en­sembles ap­pear­ing throughout the fort­night are about their chosen genres.

Too Darn Hot! — show­ing on Thursday, Sept. 8, at 5:30 and 8 p.m. at The 120 Room in Bis­tro Ro­mano, 120 Lom­bard St. — is no grade-school re­cit­al or Shir­ley Temple re­viv­al.

Rather, it’s a mod­ern fem­in­ine spin on an ages-old art form long slighted by the con­tem­por­ary dance com­munity and largely ig­nored by young, as­pir­ing fe­male per­formers.

“In the dance world, tap is a very mar­gin­al­ized art form. And with­in the tap world, fe­males are even more mar­gin­al­ized,” said Richter.

The show is the first product of the Heth­er­ing­ton and Richter part­ner­ship. They are its cho­reo­graph­ers, dir­ect­ors and co-leads. They’re also the leggy mod­els in fish­net stock­ings on the show’s pro­mo­tion­al palm cards, too.

Heth­er­ing­ton, 31, is a Gwynedd-Mercy High School and Uni­versity of Pennsylvania gradu­ate with a mas­ter’s in Eng­lish from the Uni­versity of Vir­gin­ia. As for dance, she honed her skills at sev­er­al private schools in the North­east and dur­ing her days at Penn, and she has per­formed with the Tap Team 2 com­pany for about 15 years.

Richter, 25, was a prin­cip­al dan­cer as a child with the New Jer­sey Tap En­semble and holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in dance an­thro­po­logy from Roe­hamp­ton Uni­versity in Lon­don. Now based in South Philly, she works as a freel­ance writer and a teach­ing artist at dance schools.

The two met through a mu­tu­al friend and con­nec­ted via Face­book.

“I sent her an e-mail and said, ‘I want to do a show,’ and Pam was crazy enough to say yes,” Richter said.

“The shows I’ve done in the past were on a less­er scale,” Heth­er­ing­ton said. “I knew I wanted to do something on this scale, but I didn’t want to do it alone. This takes so much more in terms of pub­li­city, plan­ning and pro­du­cing.”

The chosen ven­ue is mod­est in size by design, seat­ing about 90 in a caf&ea­cute;-style set­ting with ap­pet­izers and a full bar. Audi­ences are en­cour­aged to ar­rive early (doors open 30 minutes be­fore each per­form­ance), or­der a drink and have a bite to eat, just like folks would have done 50, 60, even 80 years ago.

With a live jazz trio as ac­com­pani­ment, Heth­er­ing­ton and Richter want to trans­port audi­ences back to the golden age of tap, when you might’ve seen someone like a young Sammy Dav­is Jr. hoof­ing to a live rendi­tion of Sing Sing Sing by Benny Good­man.

In fact, the part­ners named their new dance com­pany The Lady Hoof­ers So­ci­ety.

In tap par­lance, “hoof­ing” refers to an em­phas­is on the sound of the steps more than a pre­scribed ap­pear­ance or visu­al present­a­tion. That is, it’s more juke joint or street corner than Broad­way.

“The dif­fer­ence with hoof­ing is you’re mak­ing mu­sic (with your steps),” Heth­er­ing­ton said.

“A lot of people refer to tap as it’s like you’re hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion. That’s the artist­ic meta­phor,” Richter said.

Phil­adelphia pi­an­ist John Stenger will join New York­ers Paul Car­lon on ten­or sax and Paul Geh­man on stan­dup bass for Too Darn Hot! The mu­sic will in­clude clas­sic jazz se­lec­tions and a few new­er tunes by artists like the late Grammy-win­ner Amy Wine­house.

Heth­er­ing­ton and Richter will dance so­los, duets and en­semble num­bers with some of Richter’s most-ac­com­plished teen­age stu­dents.

Some of the routines will be cho­reo­graphed and oth­ers im­pro­vised, mak­ing for a struc­tured yet or­gan­ic even­ing of en­ter­tain­ment.

If noth­ing else, and in keep­ing with the Fringe, it will be dif­fer­ent.

“I don’t think you’d see a large-scale pro­duc­tion with a lot of fe­male tap dan­cers. We’re not the only ones do­ing it, but we’re cer­tainly the only ones do­ing it in Phil­adelphia,” Richter said.

“The Fringe is more eso­ter­ic, and we’re def­in­itely bring­ing something dif­fer­ent.” ••

For in­form­a­tion about “Too Darn Hot!” vis­it www.tap­in­tothefringe.word­press.com. For gen­er­al in­form­a­tion about Philly Fringe, vis­it www.livearts-fringe.org or call 215-413-1318.

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or bkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus