Timothy Allen dances to Andrew Homzy’s beat at Maffeo Sutton Park. The two are collaborating on a production for Crimson Coast Dance Society. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Jazz meets tap in new Crimson Coast Dance production at Malaspina Theare

Nanaimo's NOLA NightHawks jazz band is collaborating with tap dancer Timothy Allen

On a rainy Sunday morning in Maffeo Sutton Park, Timothy Allen puts a plank of wood on the ground and starts tap dancing upon it. He is joined by jazz musician Andrew Homzy, who has a large drum strapped to his chest.

They’ve met for an impromptu jam session, a callback to their last performance at the park one year ago.

Last summer Crimson Coast Dance Society artistic director Holly Bright tried something new, inviting Homzy’s NOLA NightHawks jazz band and Allen to come together for an improvised performance at Maffeo Sutton Park.

NightHawks director Homzy said there wasn’t much preparation for the improvised jam, but when they got together on the day of the show he felt they had a musical connection.

“The interesting thing about it is tap and jazz developed at the same time. They were closely integrated and musically the rhythms of jazz and tap come from the same source…” Homzy said.

“Just as my band works with historical New Orleans music, what we might call ‘traditional jazz,’ and modern New Orleans concepts, so does Timothy work with traditional jazz, historical tap and with modern contemporary influences a well.”

Allen describes his dance style as rhythmically based and “a mixture of old and new.”

“It goes quite well with Andrew because we’re able to take some songs, new songs, and put old twists on them to make them sound like New Orleans songs and vice versa,” he said.

This year Bright called on Allen and the NightHawks to put on an encore performance. This time around it will be a properly mapped out show and they are adding Ugandan-born urban street dancer AJ MegaMan to the mix.

“Me and him are going to be collaborating through rhythm, so he’s going to be doing body percussion, I’ll be tap dancing and then with that we’ll be trading with the band,” Allen said.

The production, Identity: Who Are You?, will be performed at Malaspina Theatre on Thursday, May 17. Allen said some people may not expect tap, jazz and urban dance to blend cohesively, and he said that’s where the concept of “identity” originates.

“Each of us has our own solidified identity, but there’s still connections with each of them and we’re all very much comfortable within our identities and respecting each other’s identities. So that’s kind of the reason for the name of the show,” he said.

“We’re not talking about boundaries here,” Homzy added.

“We’re taking about, as Duke Ellington would say, ‘Beyond category.’ Where the artistic impetus of what what we’re doing is encompassing rather than limiting. And that’s the way we see our music and dance working together.”

WHAT’S ON … Identity: Who Are You? comes to Malaspina Theatre on Thursday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. Regular admission is $40, $35 for members, $15 for university students. Available at www.crimsoncoastdance.org.

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