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Tao and Teicher tap in to Bay Harbor's Great Lakes Center for the Arts

 Conrad Tao and Caleb Teicher perform together.

Pianist Conrad Tao and tap dancer Caleb Teicher visited IPR ahead of their performance at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts on Tuesday, July 18.

Studio A turned into a dance studio this week as Classical IPR welcomed music from an unusual duo: pianist Conrad Tao and tap dancer Caleb Teicher.

Tao, a renowned pianist and composer with a full schedule of performances alongside major orchestras, and Teicher, an award-winning dancer whose work has been featured everywhere from the National Symphony Orchestra stage to "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert," first crossed paths in 2011.

The two are in northern Michigan this week for a performance they've dubbed "Counterpoint" on Tuesday, July 18, at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts.

Their GLCA program is relatively simple — piano, tap dance and some speaking and singing — much simpler than their first collaboration.

"Our first piece was really kind of grand in scale and imagination," Teicher said. "We did a piece with seven dancers and one Conrad on a 24-foot by 24-foot sandbox that involves a particular sort of sub-genre of tap dancing, which is sand dancing."

Tuesday's concert may not feature any sandboxes, but it will include repertoire with personal significance to Tao and Teicher.

The first piece on the program, The Goldberg Variations by J.S. Bach, was the first piece of Teicher's choreographic work Tao had seen.

"From there, I think the concept of the program grew. It might have, in fact, grown out of Bach and this idea of counterpoint in the first place," Tao said.

The "Counterpoint" program isn't just filled with baroque music, though — it also includes original music and pieces by Arnold Schoenberg, George Gershwin and Art Tatum.

Art Tatum and tap dance may sound like a surprising combination, but Teicher said jazz, bebop and Black American music have played major roles in both the dance genre's development and their own.

"I used to just warm up sometimes playing some Art Tatum transcriptions or some takes on some takes of Art Tatum, and one of them was "Cherokee." And I think that's how Art Tatum's take on "Cherokee" ended up in the program," Teicher said.

Tao said the piece that may encapsulate the program best is "Swing 2" from "More Forever," which two developed together.

"We wanted the steps and what I'm playing — my steps and Caleb's steps, so to speak — to not just have a one-to-one relationship to each other, but to be in contrapuntal conversation with one another," Tao said.

See Conrad Tao and Caleb Teicher perform in person at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in Bay Harbor tonight (July 18) at 8 p.m.

Kelley DiPasquale engineered this edition of Studio A with support from David Marchione.

Kacie Brown is IPR's digital content manager.

More on Conrad Tao:

Kate Botello is a host and producer at Classical IPR.