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Tap Dogs (10th anniversary tour)

Toilet humour was the last thing I expected to see in a tap dance show - but there it was: "urine" streaming down from behind a barrier suspended from the ceiling (so only the feet of the dancers could be seen) in the second number of the night. Tap Dogs (or Dein Perry's Tap Dogs to give it its official leave-no-doubt-who-deserves-the-credit name) establishes it credentials early: blokey, industrial, tight but never tight-arsed.

Nigel Triffit's intricate design - a conceptual cross between a Russian doll and a Meccano set - allows the six performers to engage a variety of scenery: girders, sharply angled ramps, ropes, blocks split askew, and in a memorable sequence - the ceiling. Props are used as well: basketballs, buckets of water (many of which ended up on the audience - plastic sheets were made available to the front rows for a reason!) and of course the staple of every Fred and Ginger musical: four angle grinders. Perry never forgets his Newcastle steelworker heritage - after all he's built an international phenomenon on it, albeit not as fitter and turner. Every Tap Dogs show owes something to that town and not just the most obvious tribute Steel City.

The music by Andrew Wilkie is mostly percussion based (the only live musician is a drummer) and while this definitely added to the intensity of the performance there were times when the sound of the drums overpowered the sound of the taps. On the other hand, the evening's best piece had the dancers acting as the drummers via plates hooked up to electronic drum machines.

The programme lists character names against the performers - "Enforcer", "Funky", "Rat" and so on - but really there's scant characterisation and certainly no story in the 90 minute show. Not that it needed either. Probably the only consistent bit of business was Dein Perry acting as the "old dog" who had to keep the young pups under control. Maybe something based on reality?

Dein Perry's made a habit of giving himself the bulk of the best numbers ever since Hot Shoe Shuffle, and this show is no exception. Probably the only flashy sequence he didn't get to star in was "Upside Down". However unlike the last couple of times I saw the troupe I didn't think he was obviously the best dancer in the pack. Not that I'm capable of offering a qualified opinion, but - for instance - in "Question and Answer" it seemed to me that the other guy's tapping was more clearly pronounced.

The night I saw the show the house was full and the audience reaction huge. And understandably so. Tap Dogs has deserved its decade-long success.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 17, 2005 11:55 PM.

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