BILL EVANS, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Thursday

Not a lot of tap dancing comes to Utah. And it's not often that an internationally known Utah native brings tap dancing home.

But that's exactly what happened when Bill Evans returned to Salt Lake City and spent an evening giving a groovy tap-dance history lesson and sprinkled it with his award-winning originals.

Of course, having Evans back in town is a big deal. It was more like a family reunion (along with a bunch of friends and fans) at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center Thursday. Among the guests of honor were his 95-year-old mother and his great-granddaughter.

Yes, it's true, Evans is a great-grandfather, but he can still dance with grace, precision and passion.

Thursday's performance included a four-number "Classic Rhythm Tap Suite" that included works by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson ("Doin' the New Low Down"), Charles "Honi" Coles and Choli Atkins ("Class Act"), James "Buster" Brown ("Laura") and an excerpt from Eddie Brown's "E.B. Choruses" called "Tater Diggin'," which was danced as a duet by Evans and Debby Robertson, formerly of Brenda Bufalino's American Tap Dance Orchestra.

Evans, a former member of the Repertory Dance Theatre, displayed his melding of modern dance and tap in the poignant a cappella tap work, "Blues for My Father," which he choreographed in 1985.

Robertson and her daughter Rebecca then stepped on stage with Evans in the delightful swing-tap "Shim-Sham Variations," by Leonard Reed and Dorothy Wasserman.

After intermission, Evans once more treated the audience to his newest work, "Three Preludes," which was choreographed in 2007 to the music of George Gershwin. Evans' dynamic control captivated the audience as his feet took on impressive runs, which looked effortless. He announced to the audience that it would now be called "Three Preludes for Lila," as he dedicated it to his mother.

The Robertson ladies duetted in Heather Cornell's "Java Jive," and Evans returned solo in the sassy Latin-fused "Los Ritmos Calientes."

A whimsical side of Evans, which appeared in spots throughout the night, fully blossomed in his duet with Debby Robertson, "Yes, Indeed!" The two dancers tapped out ear- and eye-pleasing rhythms while seated in chairs.

On a more introspective note, Evans ended the evening with the Fred Strickler solo work "Excursions."

Evans' style simultaneously brought smiles and tears to the audience as he danced for the joy of dance. And between pieces, the intimate performance got more cozy as he addressed the audience and gave little anecdotes of the works and his life as a dancer.

His brilliant efforts were rewarded with a standing ovation at the end of the evening.

It was good to have Evans back home.


E-MAIL: scott@desnews.com