Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

DANCE REVIEW

Fresh 'Tap Dogs' Pounds Out Joyful Proletarian Power

September 05, 1997|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

Exactly a year after "Tap Dogs" began its conquest of the United States at the Veterans Wadsworth Theatre, this award-winning all-male working-class dance revue from Australia has returned in triumph for a five-week run, while three duplicate companies dance elsewhere. Of the 1996 dancers, only the brilliant Ben Read remains, and he no longer plays the eager-to-be-mentored Tap Pup but has become one of the more experienced members of the work crew that erects steel scaffolding on the Wadsworth stage between tap-dancing showpieces of unyielding athleticism.

The show is so deliberately rough, forceful and steeped in blue-collar masculinity that it's inspired a backlash from some of the guardians of the glazed, feminized, technique-obsessed jazz-tap tradition prevalent on American stages over the last two decades. And, of course, that's the point: Creator-choreographer Dein Perry and designer-director Nigel Triffitt found a new audience for tap by taking it away from the bloodless stylists and heading toward something hotter, more contemporary and also truer to the idiom's proletarian origins.

Andrew Wilkie's rock score does occasionally offer passages of sweetness and delicacy, most notably during the mentoring duet now danced by Jeremy Kiesman and Sheldon Perry (Dein's brother). Mostly, though, primal rhythm is Wilkie's game, whether played by musicians Buck Monahan and Jason Yudoff on a scaffolding at the back of the stage or pounded into the floor by the six Dogs in a variety of contexts. For 75 minutes, they dance through showers of sparks, billowing smoke, troughs of water and across platforms wired for sound, pierced by saw-toothed gaps and tilted at dangerous angles. Even upside-down in an aerial harness.

On Wednesday, Anthony Locascio ended with a nasty gash on his right ankle, and you could periodically see dancers offstage summoning their last energy reserves for battle. "Tap Dogs" is a show about male work-relationships--on a construction site and in the moment-to-moment physical interaction of dancing. The second time around, you notice how artfully varied it is, even when the tap rhythms stay the same. And, in particular, you see how cleverly the dancers' personalities offset one another: Jeremy Fullam's bravado contrasts with Christopher Horsey's diffidence, for example.

Mostly, though, you notice how the Dogs present themselves as workers rather than as artists, people linked to us by a shared tradition of physical labor. When you think about it, all professional dance is work, but nearly all dancers try to look effortless. And they often succeed too well. By emphasizing what's usually hidden, "Tap Dogs" gets at something deep and abiding within us: the satisfaction and even joy of disciplined, demanding teamwork.

* "Tap Dogs" runs through Oct. 5 at the Veterans Wadsworth Theater, Wilshire Boulevard near the San Diego Freeway. Tuesdays through Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 and 9 p.m.; Sundays, 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets: $16 (students) to $38. (310) 825-2101.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|