Shoehorn
playing with Brenda Bufalino, Vine Leaves Restaurant, 2221 SE Hawthorne, Tuesday September 14, 8 pm, $10

When Shoehorn took the stage at the Mercury Pizzazz Talent Show that occurred two weeks ago, his function was as "segue entertainment," a smooth, melodic transition from one segment of the event to the next. To my ignorant surprise, however, his tiny set was not background noise for viewers to listen to while buying more beer, but was one of the evening's highlights--a riveting, effortless display of rhythmic dance and jazzy instrumentation. I decided instantly I had to interview this cat.

You make it look so easy, but I always wonder if serious tap dance is hard on the bodyÉ

No, not like other forms of dance, which is why people can do it into their 50s and 60s.

Your performance at Pizzazz was incredible. Why doesn't the whole city know about the tap scene here?

One thing we're fighting is the perception of tap dance as a throwback. People have this image of smiling, well-dressed guys singin' in the rain, or Fred Astaire all natty in the tails. What people don't get is how much tap dance influenced jazz rhythm and the blues. And when Gregory Hines was in Tap, he had an almost rock n' roll rage going on. The foremost artist who's expressing [a more modern tap interpretation] is Savion Glover. He's a cat with dreadlocks, and he's fierce. He's not about being dapper and suave. He's about hitting.

Some unfortunate cynics claim tap is in a state of declineÉ

They've said it's been in a state of decline for years now, but tap is in an upswing in my opinion. There's a dedicated cadre of young people taking it forward, and it's spread to other countries. I was at a tap festival in New York last month and there were people there from Brazil, Japan, Germany, FranceÉ people are using their ethnic musical cultures and tapping to it. I've always wanted to bring a 13-year-old skate punk energy into tap. I was never a punker, but there's just so many things you can do with it.