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Tap Dogs.

Steel workers love to tap dance. At least that's the message that comes across loud and clear from Tap Dogs, a group of six Australian hoofers from the industrial town of Newcastle, north of Sydney. The blokes, in their authentic Blundstone work boots, dance on, in, over, and under girders, pulleys, ladders and scaffolding on a stage that could double as a construction site.

In fact, so ingenious is director-designer Nigel Triffitt's set that building this shrine of steel is part of the action. Platforms of various metal surfaces (which provide different sound tones) are maneuvered to reveal more configurations beneath. Steel beams are raised on command while metal structures are split apart into jagged pieces to be tapped through with care. As the evening wears on, and the sweat gathers in greater profusion, off come the bargain-basement shirts and jeans. Garbed in their boots and cutoff shorts, the men exhibit enough male pulchritude to sets hearts aflutter.

The beauty of Tap Dogs, and of Dein Perry's choreography, is that the show has integrity. This is wall-to-wall tap, sometimes performed alone to demonstrate virtuosity, but more often executed in precise, intricate chorus line synchronization or in dazzling contrapuntal rhythms. These mates put on a ninetyminute show of bravura footwork that leaves you breathless. I went expecting gimmicks and cutesy humour; instead Tap Dogs gave a show of unadulterated dance.

There are some precious moments, such as one dancer miming the movement of starting an outboard motor and using his feet to tap out the stuttering engine that builds into a smooth run. A colleague, inverted in an industrial harness, taps upside down under a raised sheet of metal. And then there is the group tap in a long trough of water (rain ponchos were provided for the first few rows). The goal of the choreography, however, is not to provide cheap laughs for the audience; rather, it is to present physical challenges to the dancers, and the attitude they take with each other is one of good-natured oneupmanship. Their nonstop movement, accompanied by cacophonous live percussion music, is dance that is macho, athletic, energetic, raw, powerful, and primitive. Tap Dogs has transformed tap into man-in-the-street folk art.


David Pressault and Pascal Desrosiers, two independent choreographers who are former performers with Toronto Dance Theatre, combined in anticipation of a crowded season with a program replete with mythological and astrological references entitled "12th House" IWinchester Street Theatre, Toronto, September 5-7, 1996). Pressault's strength lay in two highly introspective, classically severe solos: a suitably tortured Tantalus for himself and a tragic Iphigenia interpreted with finesse by Day Helesic. However, the more active signature piece, 12th House (i.e., Pisces), felt less than celestial as five characters interchangeably and emotionally sought relationships in quantum leaps, ending up inevitably alone. Desrosiers's Les Seins de Pierre ("Breast of Stone", or "Peter's Breast"), was an even more problematical segment from a longer work: ostensibly a gay man's search for family, it did not cohere.
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Title Annotation:Premiere Dance Theatre, Toronto, Ontario
Author:Citron, Paula
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Dec 1, 1996
Previous Article:Edinburgh International Festival.
Next Article:Coppelia.

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