tap dogs toronto

This ain't your grandmother's tap dancing show

The Australian show Tap Dogs will inevitably turn your assumptions about the dance as a clean and elegant art form upside down. Choreographer Dein Perry and director Nigel Triffitt present a collection of rockin', aggressive dance numbers featuring six Aussie blokes on a construction site. Gregory Hines this ain't.

The dancers commit themselves to over-the-top stunts that incorporate intricate tap routines, rhythm, and music with a host of changing variables. While the dancers are impressive solo or as an ensemble, the show is hampered by a forced machismo, which plays out between the posse. Unfortunately, the wooden exchanges yield little comedy.

Introduced by a suave foreman, Anthony Russo, the rest of the cast is outfitted to reflect a collection of stock male character types: the skateboarder, the surfer, the husband, the sportsman, and a guy wearing a beer T-shirt. They perform tap routines that each time seem to up the ante of the one before. Basketballs, jutting risers, and, in the climactic scene, a water platform all make an appearance.

There's no doubt that these guys can dance. Whether they're sweating buckets and still staring forward or scoring music with their feet, the commitment level is apparent. The front man Russo and the youngest of the bunch, local boy Dominic Mortezadeh, stand out during the solo moments.

The show is arranged in different acts, each one introducing a new element to the stage. Highlights from among the scenes include upside-down tapping from Donovan Helma suspended high in the theatre and a number in which tapping elements on the floor plays musical notes. In each of these scenes, the comedy finds the right tone.

Poncho-wearing audience members in the first two rows sit in fear of the promised water number. It proves to be a wet noodle. There's a lot of build up for some awkward splashing around. Similarly, a lot of aggressive energy goes into a confusing rope routine.

The major letdown, however, is the uncomfortable narrative forced upon the six dancers. Like boys on a jungle gym, they joust and jest the whole show. The combination of tap and machismo falls flat. It's an indication that our notion of the concept of masculinity has changed since the show's premiere in 1995.

Some of the acts may still impress, but it might be time to consider hanging up the Blundstones.

—

Tap Dogs, choreographed by Dein Perry and directed by Nigel Triffitt, runs at the Royal Alexandra Theatre until September 30.


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