Backstage before the show, as the cast was rehearsing numbers in the halls of the Berrie Center and cracking jokes with one another about previous shows, Samantha Martino was concentrating on her homework.
“The life I live certainly isn’t boring,” said the senior from Stevens Institute of Technology.
Martino was at the Sharp Theater on Saturday with the New Jersey Tap Dance Ensemble, known as NJTAP, there to perform “The Tap Act,” a tribute to artists as varied as the Condos Brothers and Sammy Davis Jr.
As the dancers finished their dinners and the stage manager called out “places,” the dancers dropped everything and prepped for their performance.
The show opened with a full company number called “Just Taps,” this led into “Rockin’ in Rhythm.” The dancers wore colorful outfits that complemented each other; Martino even had pink and black tap shoes that matched her pink top.
Deborah Mitchell, performed a few powerful monologues and dances during the performance, commenting on the importance of props and costumes that led to iconic acts of the early 1900s.
She took out an umbrella and commented on the importance of Gene Kelly’s “Singing in the Rain,” which led into a performance of “Pennies From Heaven,” a dance that used umbrellas as props. Mitchell founded the group 23 years ago and has been leading the group ever since. She is also the artistic director of the group.
The second act opened with a medley of songs from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. This was followed by a brief presentation of “The Great Ladies of Tap,” which highlighted many female dancers and groups.
The whole performance was spectacular. The company performed elaborate dances, some even involving mini-stages, which made for some very tight footwork. The sound was amazing and the company moved as a collective whole.
At the end of the performance, the dancers went out into the lobby to greet their guests. Karen Callaway Williams, one of the featured dancers, was talking with some of her pupils that traveled to see her perform.
“We had a great time,” Williams said.” The energy was amazing, everyone had a blast performing.”
Mitchell was very pleased with the performance as well.
“The audience had so much energy, and the reactions from them helped us perform to our fullest,” she said. “It was beyond my expectations.”
Robert Piper, a Ramapo alumnus and featured performer for NJTAP, was greeted by his family following the show.
“It was incredible to be able to perform with this troupe on the same stage where I learned so much during my undergrad,” he said. “We wanted an exceptional performance, so we lengthened the show to add the medley from the band.”