Chicago Tap Theater, founded in 2002 by dancer-choreographer Mark Yonally, can spin a story (some original, others based on the tales of Edgar Allen Poe or comic book heroes) in a way few other dance or theater companies can match. Innovative, richly musical and character-driven, the rhythmic articulation of the ensemble’s wonderfully varied percussive footwork becomes a full-fledged language of its own – both emotional and descriptive. And the storytelling is sophisticated, clever and ingenious.
Dedicated to preserving the quintessentially American dance form of tap by “taking it to the next level,” the company’s added attraction is that it performs exclusively with live music provided by some of Chicago’s most gifted musicians. Its pieces, dubbed “tap operas” by Yonally, tour both nationally and internationally.
This Saturday (June 27 at 8 p.m.), the troupe will present the world premiere of “Circo Tap,” at the Athenaeum Theatre. It’s a continuation of “TightWire,” the beguiling piece performed last spring at Stage 773 – a work whose opening sequence, which captures a train full of circus performers chugging its way into a small town for a tent show in the early 20th century, remains etched in my memory.

CHICAGO TAP THEATER IN ‘CIRCO TAP’

When: June 27 at 8 p.m.

Where: Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport

Tickets: $35

Info: (773) 935-6875

Choreographed by artistic director Yonally, with music direction by Kurt Schewitz (whose band is sensational), new costumes, and neatly clipped narration of “Ringmaster” Marc Kelly Smith, this continuation of the company’s “circus odyssey” combines traditional circus arts with tap dance. Working with circus professionals, Chicago Tap Theatre conjures the danger, chicanery and pure fun of the circus, with stilt walkers and a rhythmic gymnast joining the terrific ensemble of dancer-actors.
Chicago Tap Theatre will perform "Circo Tap," June 27 at 8 p.m. at the Athenaeum Theatre.

Chicago Tap Theatre will perform “Circo Tap,” June 27 at 8 p.m. at the Athenaeum Theatre. (Photo: Josh Hawkins)

In addition to Yonally and Kelly, the cast includes Jennifer Pfaff Yonally, Kirsten Uttich, Jessica Williams, Sioned Papparotto, Isaac Stauffer, Aimee Chase and Johnny Huntoon. Additional choreography by Rich Ashworth and Valerie Lussac will also be featured throughout the production.