Rhapsody In Taps, a touring company based in Long Beach, California, features six – nine tap dancers and six jazz and world musicians plus guest artists. The modern dance background of Artistic Director/Choreographer, Linda Sohl-Ellison, is reflected in Rhapsody In Taps’ diverse repertoire, which pays tribute to the rich heritage of tap as well as exploring innovative choreographic directions for the concert stage. Rhapsody In Taps has been a leader in the “tap resurgence” that began in the 1980’s. RIT is one of the nation’s very few tap dance companies that creates original, often experimental repertoire and maintains a consistent ensemble of company dancers. In 2007 the company was honored with a Milestone Award from the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors for more than 25 years of performances, programs and arts leadership in Los Angeles.
Founded in 1981, Rhapsody In Taps has a history of creating original works, touring and presenting, assisted by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, James Irvine Foundation, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Panasonic, Target, California Arts Council, N/S/C Partnership, Brody Arts, Times Mirror and others. The company has created more than 75 works, all performed with live music. Music commissions have included works by renowned jazz artists Al ‘Tootie’ Heath, Cedar Walton, Louie Bellson, Phil Wright, Gildo Mahones; collaborations with noted percussionists, Monti Ellison, M.B. Gordy, Michael Bissonnette, Brent Lewis and projects with world music masters: I Nyoman Wenten (Balinese gamelan music) and Leo Chelyapov (Jewish klezmer music). In 1986, Rhapsody In Taps created its first big band work for a performance at UCLA’s Royce Hall with an all star jazz big band and later had the distinction of performing concerts with the Louie Bellson Big Band.
The company has also enjoyed affiliations with Americas’ Tap Masters, performing with Los Angeles tap legend and featured RIT soloist Eddie Brown from 1985 until 1992, and presenting numerous solo tap veterans in concert including Sandman Sims, Charles ‘Honi’ Coles, Steve Condos, Bunny Briggs, Arthur Duncan, Leonard Reed, Frances Nealy, Tap and Tray (Kurt Albert & Klaus Bleis) and RIT soloist, Fred Strickler. An artistic highlight for the company was the choreographic project with Gregory Hines during the creation of his 1990 work for Rhapsody In Taps, Toeing the 3rd and Fifth, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Other NEA supported choreographic commissions include works by Fred Strickler (1993), Keith Terry (1994), Brenda Bufalino (1998), Sam Weber (2002) and Linda Sohl-Ellison (2000, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). With funding from the James Irvine Foundation in 1999/2000, Rhapsody In Taps began a unique and ambitious collaborative project, an in-depth work for tap, Balinese gamelan music and Balinese inspired movement. This two year collaboration between Linda Sohl-Ellison, I Nyoman and Nanik Wenten and RIT resulted in a 40 minute, four section work, Nusantara (Bridge Between Islands). A phase II grant from the Irvine foundation in 2001/2002 supported touring Nusantara in California. Rhapsody In Tap’s 2005 tap/percussion collaboration with Monti Ellison, Stroke of the Oarsmen, received two Lester Horton Dance Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Performance from the Dance Resource Center. In 2006, commemorating Rhapsody In Taps’ 25th Anniversary, Sohl-Ellison collaborated with Russian composer and clarinet virtuoso, Leo Chelyapov to create Laughing With Tears, a five part RIT ensemble work combining tap dance and Jewish klezmer music.
Rhapsody In Taps has enjoyed touring engagements in California, New Mexico, Michigan, Utah, Florida, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, New York, Canada, Bali and Mexico. In 2000 Rhapsody In Taps spent two weeks in Bali rehearsing and performing with I Nyoman Wenten and his gamelan musicians. Besides the artistry and inspiration gained from the Balinese people, culture and landscape, the company created its tap version of the Kecak (Monkey Chant) in Payangan, Bali. The Company’s performance history also includes four television appearances (KNBC and KCET), performing at L.A.’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, a New York debut at Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, San Francisco’s prestigious Stern Grove Festival for an audience of 10,000, three concerts at the Redlands Amphitheatre for 6,000 plus 23 annual seasons at the Aratani Japan America Theatre in Los Angeles, two LA seasons at Marsee Auditorium and 19 annual seasons in Orange County. The Company’s annual Los Angeles Season at the Aratani Japan America Theatre each October features a public concert and a free Children’s Program for students from the Los Angeles Unified School District. RIT’s children’s program has been one of LAUSD’s most successful and popular events since its inception in 1991.
During its 32-year history Rhapsody In Taps has produced numerous tap events of national and international significance in an effort to preserve and promote the unique American art form of tap dance. In 1983,’84,’86,’93,’95 and ’97, RIT co-produced the Essence of Rhythm, concerts featuring America’s tap legends and solo artists. In 1993, 1995 and 1997, Rhapsody In Taps and Orange Coast College co-produced the Southern California Tap Festival featuring an intensive program of tap and jazz classes, events and performances by renowned artists. Each year Rhapsody In Taps celebrates National Tap Dance Day by offering a day of 12 master classes and informal performances in Long Beach, taught by RIT artists and special guest teachers.