Reprinted with permission from the program for TempoTantrum, An Evening of Multiform Movement and Dance, presented at the Armour® Potted Meat Perform-ing Arts Center, Sept. 24-26, 2004.
Leah Tardwehring has been dancing all her life, beginning in the womb, where sonograms revealed that she wasn't merely kicking but high-kicking. She took her first dance lesson at the age of 18 months and spontaneously choreographed her first piece, I Gotta Go Pee-pee, mere weeks later. While Tardwehring is skilled in several dance disciplines, she's first and most fervently a tap dancer, studying the craft under such legendary masters as Bill "No Nickname" Finch, The Clamorous Brothers and Tommy Outtatune. Both an activist and educator, Tardwehring teaches Tap Your Way Fit at several senior centers around town, a physical therapy program that, until last year, ranked among the city's least common causes of death for the elderly; she is also the founder/ director of The Moonwalk-athon for Michael Jackson, a charity fund-raiser that seeks to preserve the dance innovator's deteriorating nose before it's lost to future generations. Her most recent choreography, Bring in the Cacophony, Bring in the Syncopated Rhythmic Bass Line, debuted at the White-As-Cotton Club in Minneapolis, where it was received with the Caucasian equivalent of unrestrained enthusiasm. With a performing career that spans 30 years, Tardwehring states, "Tap is a tonic. A blessing. A dear, dear friend." Her knees couldn't be reached for comment.
Anne Noying-Pressense and Jaq Mannisch first danced together in June 2003 at a reception following the civil union of a mutual former life partner. "Jaq's bunny hop was, for me, absolutely transformative," says Noying-Pressense. "Her bunny was real, alive. Totally raw and feral, yet invitingly fluffy and housebroken." Just weeks later, they'd formed their two-person dance company, Kookoofakókóhpuphs (a Sanskrit term expressing the tension between mindful freedom and mindless fixation).
Each woman brings to their dances -- and their new partnership -- a distinct perspective and complementary talents: Noying-Pressense is a longtime student of modern dance, yoga and tableaux (the most demanding of the mime arts), along with a handful of other unmarketable skills; her dancer's air of haughty detachment manages to be both studied and effortless, inviting audiences to recognize their own superfluousness. Mannisch, by contrast, is a fulltime Starbucks barista/part-time bar bouncer who's active in both bodybuilding and bullying; her choreography/performances are distinguished by her gift for lifting people off the ground and carrying them about. The dances these talented women produce are a fusion of contact improvisation, breath work, flexibility, physical contortion, mad grasping and adult situations. Most pieces, including tonight's, utilize New Age music for a lofty though none-of-your-beeswax reason.
Dr. Isadora Böeksmart is the first tenured professor of Ballet and Classical Dance at Indiana State Agricultural and Barber College. Since 1997, she's held the Larry Bird "Look at Them Sissies Jump!" Endowed Chair. In her long career, she has choreographed dozens of ballets and dance performances, most of them in her head, a few on paper. Dr. Böeksmart earned her doctorate in Dance Theory from Western Baptist College, a school where any actual dancing is punishable by permanent expulsion and eternal damnation. She's the author of Pas de Duh: From Swine Pen to Swan Lake, considered an essential instructional text for university level educators who wish to teach the larger-dimensioned Midwestern farm girl to dance on her tippy-toes. Utilizing music written by her husband, Frasier Nurves, an adjunct professor of Random Electronic Notes and Non-Melodic Feedback Composition (also at ISABC), Dr. Böeksmart created and choreographed Smurfumes, an original ballet that's a visual interpretation of what Smurfs smell like. Tonight, her student troupe, Les Hoosiers (pronounced "layz OOZ-ee-airz") performs an excerpt from that work. Dr. Böeksmart wishes to dedicate tonight's performance to her children, who are presently a Petri dish of unfertilized eggs sitting in a deep-freeze waiting for her ambition to slack off.
Ty Toutfit started ballroom dancing in 1991, at the age of 32. He won his first national competition two years later, at just 32 years of age. Today, at age 32, he's the youngest man to have won the Gold Bond Powder Grand International Cha-cha-championship four consecutive times, the last after a statistical dead heat that was eventually decided in his favor by the United States Supreme Court (a 7-0 decision, with Scalia and Thomas forced to recuse themselves due to the fact that they were the couple Toutfit and partner were tied with). As a choreographer, Toutfit is known for quick, twisting, complex combinations that can't be explained by a cocaine habit alone. Over the years, he has danced with only two women, both legends of ballroom dancing. From 1991-96, he partnered with Mona Complayna, who ultimately left the team over creative differences with Toutfit's ponytail. Since then, he's danced with Fairlee Garrisch, whom he describes as "the perfect painted whore to my sequined, skeevy pimp." Warning: Due to Toutfit's incredibly energetic paso doble and resultant buckets of sweat, the first three rows of the audience will get wet.
His column appears here the last issue of each month. His book, Keys to Uncomfortable Living, is now available in area bookstores. See book excerpts on page 25.