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Conrad Tao and Caleb Teicher: Tiny Desk Concert

A tap dancer and a pianist perform Bach and Gershwin behind a desk in our office: What could possibly go wrong? You can't tell by these truly electrifying performances, but an hour before this Tiny Desk began, I was chasing a tow truck to a salvage yard. The person slated to deliver our tap floor was snagged in a multi-car pileup that, thankfully, left nobody injured. I rented a U-Haul, grabbed the floor from the totaled vehicle and floored it back to NPR.

The behind-the-scenes headaches were worth it when we stood in awe of these two artists — pianist Conrad Tao and dancer-choreographer Caleb Teicher — as they created an experience so unexpectedly fresh and suffused with joy, it moved some to tears and others to cheer for more.

Bach and tap dancing might, on the surface, have nothing in common. But here, with ecstatic energy, the artists literally bring out the spirit of dance inherent in Bach's music, as Teicher's artful clicks and clacks weave into the multi-voiced counterpoint.

Catching a breath, the two slow it down with a sensual piece composed together. Teicher buffs the floor with softer shoes while Tao taps out light, Chopin-perfumed harmonies. High voltage gusto returns in Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Tao's athleticism, rising from the bench with blistering runs, nearly rivals Teicher, whose constant inventions, Charlie Chaplin charm and pretzel-like flexibility create a cinematic flair.

Former prodigies, Tao and Teicher feed off of each other's virtuosity. Presented with genuine delight, the performances left them exhausted and the audience gobsmacked.

SET LIST

  • Bach: Goldberg Variation #1
  • Tao/Teicher: Swing 2
  • Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue


MUSICIANS

  • Conrad Tao: pianist 
  • Caleb Teicher: dancer


TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Tom Huizenga
  • Director/Editor: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Joshua Bryant, Alanté Serene, Mitra I. Arthur
  • Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
  • Audio Assistant: Robert Rodriguez
  • Photographer: Catie Dull
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Hazel Cills, Kara Frame, Maia Stern
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.