So, not yet 20, Caleb Teicher, of Mahopac, New York (population 8,203), scooped up some tap shoes, blew into the Big Apple, found some footlights, and crowned a rookie season with the 2011 Bessie Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in the tap extravaganza Body Madness: A Shared Evening. Today, Teicher appears with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at PS21, a microscopic institution with astronomical dreams in the Hudson Valley community of Chatham—a little town, as Garrison Keillor might put it, that time forgot and the decades cannot improve.
Some artists sell, and for them it’s a good thing. Teicher, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, does not, and that’s good, too. Synapses firing at the speed of light, they remain cool at the core, staking out a zone all their own. They’re a dancing Buster Keaton—features composed, never commenting, co-conspiring, or telling a spectator what to think. Their head floats lightly at the top of their spine, limbs limber through every joint. The dazzlements just keep on coming: lacy footwork, slides and glides, grasshopper leaps, lightning kicks, all to the mesmerizing staccato fantasia of their taps, embellishments varying from night to night.
On the eve of their 28th birthday, Teicher remains (except among dance aficionados) something of a best-kept secret. Pre-pandemic, they were constantly on the move, leading the charge for their New York–based Caleb Teicher & Company. Typical programs would showcase not just tap but also jazz, the Lindy Hop, swing, and other vernacular styles. Between those engagements they pursued special projects with other mercurial creatives, notably evenings of duo improv with a favorite collaborator, the pianist and composer Conrad Tao, aged 27. The two re-united last May for Tao’s first opening night as artistic director of the Laguna Beach Music Festival, in Orange County, California.
“Working with Caleb has opened up a lot for me,” says Tao, “challenging me to dig in deeper to ask what I was really trying to communicate and express. We have our own universes and speak our own vocabularies, but together we’ve found a new one. I usually can’t see Caleb from behind the piano, so my intimate relationship with the movement takes place almost entirely on the plane of listening—which speaks to their musicality as a dancer and the depth of their listening.”
Teicher readily admits that this diversified dance card is partly a reflection of economic necessity. “At first, none of my projects generated enough business for a full-time gig,” they say. “And that’s O.K. I intend for most of my projects to have a prolonged life, and because of this, they often overlap. People often request older work—my company piece Variations, for example, set to Bach’s ‘Goldbergs.’” Indeed, excerpts from the “Goldberg Variations,” in Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s renowned arrangement for strings, open the Orpheus program, the more festive for the participation of Teicher plus two company colleagues. “Luckily, I still like Variations and am happy to perform it,” Teicher says. “But beyond the logistics, keeping my mind and body in multiple projects allows me to be better at all of them.” —Matthew Gurewitsch