Omeleto

Crutch-Tap

By Michael Basha | Drama
A young man invents a new dance to preserve the memory of his deceased brother.

Chas lost his brother Solomon years ago. The pair of siblings once dreamed of becoming tap dancers. They'd tape beer cans to the balls of their feet to make tap shoes and pretend to be performers like the Three Stooges. But when Solomon died, Chas shut down emotionally but continued dancing in honor of his brother.

Now Chas has created a new type of tap, attaching an old pair of tap shoes to crutches, creating the effect of a dance duet with one performer. After working on this style of "crutch-tap" for some time, he is ready to perform live for the first time and honor the memory of his brother, keeping the promises they made to one another when they were both alive.

Written and directed by Michael Basha, this short drama is a poignant character portrait of a man lost in grief. But through a patient, painstaking effort, he finds a way to honor his love for his lost loved one, one unique to the experiences he shared with Solomon. Chas goes about the process of creative experimentation, finding the form and substance of his choreography. As we watch him wander, and practice at night in the ad-hoc spotlights formed by streetlights, an introspective voiceover mulls over familial memories, thoughts and reflections about grief, love and families.

As a portrait, the film's momentum is guided less by plot than by emotion, evoking an atmosphere of reverie and even nostalgia as Chas drifts through the process of putting his dance together. Dark, moody visuals sculpted with evocative lighting are one of the film's strengths, framed and composed with considerable thought and care. With their eye for telling detail and combined with an equally musical approach to editing, they have an almost abstract quality.

But woven with the voiceover, the images become a stream of both wistful sorrow and resolute determination. Actor Chas Harvey slowly builds Chas's dance, his movements weighted with the burden of emotion. But there's also an inherent jauntiness to tap dance, and Chas slowly shuffles into a different stage of grief, one more accepting of loss and poignantly affectionate. After considerable experimentation and effort, the pair of crutches becomes the evocation of the missing brother, and when Chas does his "crutch-tap," it's as if Solomon is there with him -- as he always is in Chas's heart.

We never quite see the full dance in "Crutch-Tap," but in the end, that decision remains true to Chas's intent as a dancer and choreographer -- and true to the nature of grief. While we can reach out and share our feelings, ultimately the process of working through bereavement is a personal one, with its own rhythms and insights that reflect the relationship and person now missing. Chas's crutch tap becomes a personal tribute to the love and experiences he shared with his brother, each tap like a song of sorrow and joy.





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