When most people think of a tap dance troupe, they think a glittering group of girls on a polished stage. “Tap Dogs” is about as far from that idea as you can get; it’s a gritty and dynamic group of guys who perform with a joy and ferocity that is transfixing. They brought their unique brand of dance to The Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower stage this past week, with more than a few surprises up their sleeves.
“Tap Dogs” has been around since 1994 and was started in Australia. While the inaugural cast was entirely Australian, the troupe has added members from the USA, Canada, and the UK at different points over the years. They have been nominated for multiple awards, and have won many, including a Laurence Olivier award, NY Obie, and multiple Australian Dance awards.
It was an electrifying performance that was truly one of a kind.
The show kicked off with just one dancer on an industrial stage. The early part of the performance focused mostly on the percussive nature of the tap rhythms, using no other musical accompaniment. The group also used this section to introduce the performers and their unique personalities, as well as amp up the audience’s energy. The dancing built to a fever pitch, with some of the steps moving at lightning speed. The dancers made their performance very accessible to the audience by performing in street clothes. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of their attire was a very important piece- their shoes. Instead of typical tap shoes, they instead all wore ankle boots, and industrial looking ones at that, with taps attached. This would help them later, as they danced on some intense sets that normal tap shoes might not have been up for.
As the show progressed, there was some music added, mostly complimentary percussion instruments. That was handled by two very enthusiastic and rocking women, Noriko Terada and Caitlin Kalafus. They each very capably commanded their own drum set with all the trimmings.
While the stage started off quite simple, it developed as the show went on, not only creating interesting levels, but also using different surfaces to tap on, producing variations of sound. Each dancer got to have a solo dance, allowing each individual their chance to shine and show their personal flair. Some other highlights were a song where not only was the dancing perfectly in sync, but they also all did intricate work with… basketballs! Dribbling and tapping in tandem was never something this reviewer thought she needed in her life until this past weekend, but now it’s something I’ll never forget!
Then, one of the dancers went up on a rigging, leaving the audience wondering what was next. Before we knew it, he was upside town literally dancing on the ceiling. After that, we wondered how they would top that. And that’s when they brought out the grinders. They not only tapped on the metallic surfaces, but also used buffers to make sounds and sparks to compliment the dance. It was intensely unique and absolutely sensational to behold.
Even after all of the surprises and incredible dance the evening had already afforded, there was still more. I won’t spoil the final surprise, but I will say that it required special costuming for the front few rows.
Overall, this performance was fantastic fun that could be enjoyed by all ages. Not only was it high energy and full of fun, but it also provided a great message that there is athleticism in artistry and you truly can make a unique performance by thinking outside of the box. It was an electrifying performance that was truly one of a kind.
***Advisory: Due to the microphones on the floor, some of the tapping sounds are extremely loud. There are also smoke and swirling lights as part of the show.
While the Tap Dogs’ engagement at the Kennedy Center has sadly ended, you can find tickets for upcoming dates on their tour, click here.
For more upcoming dance events at the Kennedy Center, click here.