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Jazz and tap unite

Los Angeles-based, mother-daughter duo Denise Pennington Scheerer and Angel Pennington, accompanied by local jazz musicians and tap dancers, will perform "Swing Shift: Take Two!," a jazz-tap concert offered on two nights at two venues.

This group of dancers first performed together in 2008 in the jazz-tap concert "Swing Shift." The sequel performance promises new numbers and choreography with the vocal stylings of Wendy Haas-Mull.

The concert will be held at 8 p.m. Monday, Aug.16, at the Black Swan Theatre in Ashland and Tuesday, Aug. 17, at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre in Ashland. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Besides Scheerer and Pennington, featured dancers include Jim Giancarlo, artistic director for OCT; Suzanne Seiber, who has performed for OCT, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Rogue Music Theatre; and Glena Rasmussen, owner of Ivy Hall Dance Studio in Medford. Mull, also from Los Angeles, will perform in six dance numbers.

Accompanying the dancers is vocalist and horn player Paul Jenny, percussionist Tom Freeman, bassist David Miller and keyboardist Thomas McKay. The quartet will perform five "tapless" pieces, including Jenny’s composition “Livin’ in the Trees.”.

"The origin of tap was a jazz improvisation," says Seiber. "It was part of jazz music, and you would improvise with the band. We don’t have those bands anymore so for us, as dancers, to have great musicians to dance with is really amazing.”

The program will open with Dizzy Gillespie's composition, "A Night in Tunisia," performed by the jazz quartet. Following the standard, all the dancers, including Mull, will perform "Coles Stroll," choreographed by Honi Coles.

Scheerer and Pennington will perform choreography arranged by Scheerer's husband, Bob Scheerer, to accompany Count Basie's piece, "Blues for Basie."

Seiber and Giancarlo also will perform a duet of Giancarlo's original choreography to the Steely Dan number "Cousin Dupree." The piece also will be incorporated into upcoming OCT production "Riffin' and Tappin,' " opening Sept. 10.

Also on the program, Seiber, Scheerer and Pennington will perform solo to "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Night Train" and "After You've Gone," respectively. Each of the dancers arranged her own choreography.

Seiber says she tends more toward show-style tap, which incorporates more body movement while Scheerer and Pennington perform rhythm tap with "really fast feet."

"Rhythm tap is when you are thinking of the tap as an instrument in the band ... and thinking of your feet as percussion instruments," she says.

Rasmussen, an encyclopedia of historic tap numbers, practices a vintage style of dance that re-creates the old styles, says Seiber.

Scheerer has studied and performed with tap-dance legends Eddie Brown and Sam Weber and performed with Jazz Tap Ensemble of Los Angeles. She also founded and performed with That’s Jazz, a jazz-dance company in Seattle. Scheerer teaches master classes throughout the Pacific Northwest and California and is an instructor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She and Pennington have performed together at Four Queens Hotel in Las Vegas and in Los Angeles at Jazz Bakery, Ford Amphitheater and the annual Tap Festival.

Following the concert, there will be a traditional shim sham, and all dancers in the audience are invited to participate. So tappers bring your shoes.

Tickets are $20, $15 for students, and are available at Ashland's Paddington Station, OCT and at the door. Call 541-482-6080.

Jim Giancarlo and Suzanne Seiber will perform a duet of Giancarlo's original choreography to the Steely Dan number “Cousin Dupree.” The number, as well as two others in the program, will be incorporated into upcoming OCT production “Riffin' and Tappin,' ” opening Sept. 10. - Photo by Tom Lavine