Finding Synesthesia

Collaboration with tap dancer Heather Cornell

Dapp Theory “When different senses merge, they create unexpected connections. The experience of a tap dancer is that of a synesthete, continually traveling through the intersecting heartbeats of music and dance.”In 2007 the London Jazz Festival commissioned tap dancer/choreographer Heather Cornell to create a new work that would equally represent the evolution of tap dance and jazz. Cornell enlisted her friend of 20 years, fellow-Canadian, pianist/composer Andy Milne to collaborate. Together, while in residence at The Banff Centre, they created Finding Synesthesia, a work that combines music and tap by exploring musical textures from around the globe.

“hypnotic vibe … a ride through shifting aural landscapes.”
– London Guardian

In addition to Cornell and Milne, Finding Synesthesia draws upon the talents of the impeccable jazz vocalist, La Tanya Hall and genre-bending cello prodigy David Eggar. Together, they weave tap percussion with odd metered grooves and exotic sonic fabrics; combining improvised and choreographed elements of music and movement.

With tap dancing functioning as the main percussion instrument, Cornell is part of the instrumental ensemble, challenging traditional perceptions of the tap dancer as soloist in “front” of a band. Milne’s compositional vision draws on the musical strengths of tap, while creatively finding new sounds and techniques to evoke worlds and emotions not traditionally associated with the tap dance tradition. These rhythmic and melodic soundscapes are based in or inspired by jazz, while incorporating textures and emotions from elements of world music. In addition to choreography, the visual experience in Finding Synesthesia features projections by London-based video artist Rebecca Birch. Inspired by Milne and Cornell’s collaboration, these projections were uniquely created at the same time as the music and dance, and help draw the audience into that creative process. They evoke the visual aspects of music, as much as the tap dance conveys the musical attributes of dance, serving as a reminder of the performers quest for Synesthesia.

Since its London premier, Milne and Cornell have performed Finding Synesthesia at The Salzburg Jazz Festival and The Harbourfront Festival in Toronto and they continue to receive invitations from around the world, (including those to perform live for radio). Because the show is as much about “dance as music” as it is “dance and music”, Milne and Cornell have been experimenting with recording techniques and plan to record a CD in the future.


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