Syncopated rhythmic line dances, intricate tangles of footwork, high-flash leaps and turns, swoops and slides, dapper elegance: tap dancers know how to grab your attention. A few years ago downtown commuters would sometimes find a tap dancer in tails–complete with top hat and cane–on the subway platform, his dress and energetic dancing contrasting with the dingy surroundings. People who a minute ago only wanted to get home were now missing their trains to keep watching. Mr. Taps (Ayrie King III) brings this same excitement to his stage performances, where he loves to tease the audience by doing steps that look impossible. You expect him to fall into a heap any minute, but he only adds more steps. King is just one of the tappers scheduled to perform in the Human Rhythm Project. This annual event was founded two years ago by tap innovators Lane Alexander and Kelly Michaels, who wanted to celebrate National Tap Dance Day with a dance marathon featuring local talent. At this year’s edition the pair will show off how they’ve incorporated modern-dance ideas into their tap routines. Also on the agenda is tap master Jimmy Payne, who picked up early pointers for his laid-back style from his classmates Adele and Fred Astaire; he’ll be joined by his student and protege Bobby Rubenstein. And rhythm tapper Sarah Petronio will show off what she’s famous for. (See Section One for more about her.) Rounding out the bill will be Najwa Dance Corps and Trinity Dance Company, groups that will expose tap’s roots in African tribal dance as well as Irish step dancing. Monday at 8 in the auditorium of Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. Saint Louis; $10 minimum donation to benefit Open Hand/Chicago. Call 761-4889 for info and reservations.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mike Canale.