Cirque du Soleil Taps into Comedy

November 30, 2009

Jared Grimes is on the go. He teaches tap and hip hop at a handful of NYC studios, runs a super-successful show (Broadway Underground) and still makes time for an occasional game of basketball. But when Cirque du Soleil veteran David Shiner made Grimes an offer he couldn’t refuse—choreographing Cirque’s new show Banana Shpeel, which debuted in Chicago on Nov. 19—Grimes added the project to his full plate. We caught up with the busiest tapper around to talk Cirque, tap hop and basketball. —Alison Feller



Dance Spirit: What is
Banana Shpeel


Jared Grimes:
It’s a creative mixture of comedy and art. The show is reminiscent of the old Hollywood dancers who could do it all and had so many skills at their disposal. We cast quadruple threats: They sing, act, dance and clown!


DS: What is the choreography in the show like?


I put tap in everything I do, so there’s a lot of tapping. I teach what I call eccentric tap hop. I take moves that people like Fred Astaire would do but set them to modern music. Banana Shpeel uses this hybrid form of movement that intertwines tap with hip hop, theater dance and comedy. It’s deeply rooted in the music. The show has that Cirque feel to it, but it’s also vaudevillian, with bits of ragtime, jazz and contemporary.


What’s the best part of working with the dancers?


I can do anything with them! The dancers have such strong foundations to begin with, so I’m pushing the envelope every day. Cirque has given me the green light to explore all kinds of movement, so I’m taking the dancers down avenues I’ve never been down before. This show isn’t going to be something you can find in movies, music videos or on Broadway.


DS: What’s up next for you?


I’m coming back to NYC to play some basketball. I haven’t played in two months and I’m going crazy!




Photo by Jean-Francois Gratton