In a sea of serious, artistic dance acts this fringe, Virada offers something different – it’s fun, artistic dance, and is proof that dance can be creative and world-class while still being raucously funny and contiguously energetic. Whether you are a ballerina, a musician or someone who normally only ventures into the Garden to buy beer, you’ll get caught up in the excitement of this show.
Virada – Tap. Acrobatics. Percussion is a slightly misleading title. Firstly, aside from two (albeit very impressive) aerial tricks, there aren’t really any acrobatics. But secondly, and more importantly, you get so much more than just tap, acrobatics and percussion. However, I suppose Virada – Tap. Percussion. Banjo. Comedy. Bass Guitar. Trombone. Crazy Polymba. General Merriment would be a bit long.
Tap is incredibly intricate and, because of the unique sounds made by each step, timing is imperative. To choreograph this level of detail into an hour of performance would be a serious challenge, but it is one that seems to have been gripped with both hands. The choreography in Virada takes traditional tap dance and bends it, using influences from square dance, Fosse jazz, and the roaring, chaotic score of the show.
So You Think You Can Dance 2008 finalist Hilton Denis is certainly the star of the show and the brains behind it. Denis eschews the stereotypical tap dancing tricks, instead focusing on strong, rhythmic beats and precise movements, using his shoes as much as a musical instrument as a dance tool. While slightly more classical in style, dancers Melissa Debono, Kierra England and Brent Fail are impressive together, but also impressive individually. While not the strongest tapper in the group, Debono bounces off the audience and the performers, keeping up the energy and the playfulness of the production. England is a true tap technician, with clean beats and an earthy style, and Fail’s fun-loving attitude, as well as his talent as a tapper, shines through. While there were a few missed cues and mismatched arms, the dancers’ ability to maintain timing and unison, often without accompaniment and always with killer style, is a feat in itself.
As if the dancers weren’t energetic enough, the fast-paced, eclectic music pulls the audience and the dancers into a frenzy. Sibo Bangoura’s African percussion is performed with such vigour and power that the audience’s palms are sore just from watching, and Grant Arthur plays the hillbilly trombone, banjo and bass player with charm and surety. Although Mick Stuart was unlucky enough to encounter technical difficulties with both his saxophone and his polymba, the audience were so impressed with his skill that they were quick to forgive.
While this show is a treat for the ears with its unpredictable soundtrack, the creative lighting and costume make it just as much of a treat for the eyes. With fluorescent orange tap shoes and paint-splattered bandanas shifting frenetically under the black light, from the first act the audience’s senses are overwhelmed.
The most outstanding thing about Virada was the audience response – the audience’s raucous whoops and rhythmic claps were sometimes even louder than the musicians. This audience was, by far, the most enthusiastic I have seen this Fringe season, which, really, is the best compliment a show like this can receive.