The riddle: Which Australian production premiered in 1995 at the Sydney Festival Theatre? Has toured non-stop since? Has visited more than 300 cities worldwide? Won several international awards? Dazzled more that 11 million live audience members? And awed 3.4 billion television viewers of the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony?
The answer: Dein Perry’s TAP DOGS!!
Dein Perry’s passion for tap dance was born in a small dance studio in Newcastle. With a career in the dance industry seeming unlikely, Perry found work in a very different industry: the steel industry. His work as an industrial mechanist in Australia’s ‘Steel City’ undoubtedly inspired the international phenomenon that is Tap Dogs.
The set is a construction site, and the cast of six dancers are the workmen. Foreman Sheldon Perry leads his crew in the most amazing feats of dance imaginable. Whether it is dancing on ladders, in water, on grossly uneven surfaces, or even upside-down, the Tap Dogs can do it. They utilise every surface, they construct the set as they go and they produce the most high-energy percussive performance possible.
There is absolutely nothing to fault in this production.
[pull_left]There is absolutely nothing to fault in this production[/pull_left]
The dancing is breathtaking. The six performers, each with a distinct work place character, are humorous, energetic, cheeky and above all polished. The skill and precision in the dance, whether solo or ensemble, is the platform for what is surely the most celebrated dance production around.
The set is a work of art – I think that every cubic centimetre is utilised. Nigel Triffitt’s brilliant use of space leaves the audience wondering how the next segment can possibly trump the last awe-inspiring routine – inevitably somehow they manage it.
The costumes are simple but appropriate, with each member wearing the now iconic modified Blundstone tap boots. The sweat drenched work gear proves that the Tap Dogs leave absolutely nothing in the tank.
The lighting (Gavin Norris) is both intricate and extravagant and the sound design (Andy Jackson) gives the impression of rock concert for dance. I love feeling the sound as well as hearing it.
With such a polished production it is tempting to simply list the routines that I loved. But alas, there are too many to mention! So here are the highlights: the basketballs, the ladders, the scaffolding, and the rest.
Tap Dogs, the one act ninety-minute tap dancing masterpiece, will and should be enjoyed by everyone. In fact, given the breath-taking performance, I’m surprised that only 11 million people have seen it live!