Friday night's performance by Joe Chvala's fiery percussive dance troupe Flying Foot Forum and audacious jazz trio the New Standards at the Cowles Center was a hit with the audience before anyone even took a step or played a note. The cheers started when the curtain went up, there were appreciative hollers throughout the evening and a raucous standing ovation. Rightly so -- everyone onstage contributed to the sort of show that keeps you smiling all the way home.
The joint concert marked Flying Foot Forum's 20th anniversary. Past and current company members performed repertory works as well as new pieces. Some were choreographed by the dancers and set to tunes from the New Standards' eclectic catalog, which features re-interpretations of familiar pop and rock tunes ranging from Britney Spears to the Replacements. The approach not only highlighted some of Chvala's signature works -- including his warriors-in-trench-coats dance "Berserks" and the delicately refined "Fireball" -- but also demonstrated how the choreographer has inspired so many other artists.
Among the many memorable moments were Zoe Sealy's delightfully twisted carnivalesque vision set to "Is That All There Is" and the sizzling hot "Hey Ya" for five male dancers choreographed by Tamara Kangas Erickson and Jeremy Bensussan. Not to be outdone, Karla Grotting assembled three female colleagues for a jaunty take on "The Way You Make Me Feel." Grotting and Chvala also floated through a light-as-air duet propelled by "Moon River." Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan, along with Joe Spencer and Joanne Spencer, delivered a sparkling movement ode to how they met (and married) thanks to the Flying Foot Forum.
As for the New Standards and several guest musicians (including Peter Ostroushko and Jacqueline Ultan), all seemed to be having a ball accompanying the dancers. Chan Poling (piano) and John Munson (string bass) served up wry comic patter between numbers, while Steve Roehm communicated through the shimmery sounds of his vibraphone. These guys are ready to host their very own variety show.
All came together for a big closing number set to "I Want Candy." And while the ending was sweet, there was an even more satisfying coda -- Chvala tap-dancing solo, in bowtie and tails, to the Tin Man's theme song from "The Wizard of Oz." Oh so elegant, and definitely full of heart.