Tap Dogs

Tap Dogs (Wadsworth Theatre, UCLA; 1,317 seats; $ 35 top) UCLA Center for the Performing Arts, Back Row Prods./Peter Holmes a Court and Columbia Artists Management Inc., in association with Richard Frankel and Marc Routh, by arrangement with Dein Perry and Nigel Triffitt, present a dance revue in one act; originated and choreographed by Perry; directed and designed by Triffitt; original music, music direction, keyboards & percussion, Andrew Wilkie; lighting , Rick Fisher; sound design, Darryl Lewis; additional keyboards & percussion, Jason Yudoff. Opened Sept. 4, 1996; reviewed Sept. 5; runs through Sept. 22. Running time: 1 hour, 15 min. Dancers: Dein Perry, Darren Disney, Drew Kaluski, Ben Read, Nathan Sheens, Gerry Symonds. The six dancers in "Tap Dogs" brush, hop , shuffle, buck and slide with ferocious rhythmic abandon, but their limitless energy is not enough. There is no variety to their efforts because music and musical phrasing is almost non-existent during their sweat-and-grime foot-stomping. None of these working-class blokes from Newcastle, Australia, will ever be mistaken for Astaire or Kelly, and Ginger Rogers might have worried about being mugged if she saw them approaching. But the six men, in jeans, cut-offs, tank-tops and work boots, have created a unique brand of industrial-strength hoofing. Director and designer Nigel Triffitt, aided by David Murray's atmospheric lighting, has created an ingenious array of performance environments to compensate for the lack of musical variation. What emerges are a series of rhythmic riffs (highly amplified by Darryl Lewis' in-your-face sound design), performed on surfaces tilting wood platforms, sheet metal, aluminum siding, scaffolding, steel girders and water-filled troughs. Led by the ensemble's creator, Dein Perry,the sextet exude the aura of a group of laborers horsing around a construction site. Acting almost like a foreman, Perry generally sets the patterns for the others to follow. They are a likable group, with distinct personalities that emerge in the rough-and-tumble interplay of their dance sets. Young Nathan Sheens is like the cocky new kid, always trying to impress the other guys. The muscular, hip-churning Darren Disney exhibits some moves that would make a Chippendale dancer envious. Ben Read is a handsome charmer and probably the most facile dancer. Jerry Symonds is a floor-pounder whose energetic tapping sounds like rivets going into steel. The most commanding physical presence is Drew Kaluski, a linebacker-size hoofer who manages to exhibit an amazing range of dynamics in his footwork. The on-stage instrumental support of Andrew Wilkie and Jason Yudoff offers a myriad rhythmic settings for the dancers, ranging from Latin to rock to Eastern and more. But rhythm variation by itself does not offer this talented sextet an opportunity to go beyond the elementary level of their craft. The most rewarding number comes near the end of the evening. Wilkie creates a wonderful, bluesy ballad that gives the ensemble an opportunity to shape and develop their tap phrases. As each dancer is given a solo within the languid stop-time melody, there is a sense that this group could become a lot more than six guys pounding their feet on a scaffold. Julio Martinez

Tap Dogs (Wadsworth Theatre, UCLA; 1,317 seats; $ 35 top) UCLA Center for the Performing Arts, Back Row Prods./Peter Holmes a Court and Columbia Artists Management Inc., in association with Richard Frankel and Marc Routh, by arrangement with Dein Perry and Nigel Triffitt, present a dance revue in one act; originated and choreographed by Perry; directed and designed by Triffitt; original music, music direction, keyboards & percussion, Andrew Wilkie; lighting , Rick Fisher; sound design, Darryl Lewis; additional keyboards & percussion, Jason Yudoff. Opened Sept. 4, 1996; reviewed Sept. 5; runs through Sept. 22. Running time: 1 hour, 15 min. Dancers: Dein Perry, Darren Disney, Drew Kaluski, Ben Read, Nathan Sheens, Gerry Symonds. The six dancers in “Tap Dogs” brush, hop , shuffle, buck and slide with ferocious rhythmic abandon, but their limitless energy is not enough. There is no variety to their efforts because music and musical phrasing is almost non-existent during their sweat-and-grime foot-stomping. None of these working-class blokes from Newcastle, Australia, will ever be mistaken for Astaire or Kelly, and Ginger Rogers might have worried about being mugged if she saw them approaching. But the six men, in jeans, cut-offs, tank-tops and work boots, have created a unique brand of industrial-strength hoofing. Director and designer Nigel Triffitt, aided by David Murray’s atmospheric lighting, has created an ingenious array of performance environments to compensate for the lack of musical variation. What emerges are a series of rhythmic riffs (highly amplified by Darryl Lewis’ in-your-face sound design), performed on surfaces tilting wood platforms, sheet metal, aluminum siding, scaffolding, steel girders and water-filled troughs. Led by the ensemble’s creator, Dein Perry,the sextet exude the aura of a group of laborers horsing around a construction site. Acting almost like a foreman, Perry generally sets the patterns for the others to follow. They are a likable group, with distinct personalities that emerge in the rough-and-tumble interplay of their dance sets. Young Nathan Sheens is like the cocky new kid, always trying to impress the other guys. The muscular, hip-churning Darren Disney exhibits some moves that would make a Chippendale dancer envious. Ben Read is a handsome charmer and probably the most facile dancer. Jerry Symonds is a floor-pounder whose energetic tapping sounds like rivets going into steel. The most commanding physical presence is Drew Kaluski, a linebacker-size hoofer who manages to exhibit an amazing range of dynamics in his footwork. The on-stage instrumental support of Andrew Wilkie and Jason Yudoff offers a myriad rhythmic settings for the dancers, ranging from Latin to rock to Eastern and more. But rhythm variation by itself does not offer this talented sextet an opportunity to go beyond the elementary level of their craft. The most rewarding number comes near the end of the evening. Wilkie creates a wonderful, bluesy ballad that gives the ensemble an opportunity to shape and develop their tap phrases. As each dancer is given a solo within the languid stop-time melody, there is a sense that this group could become a lot more than six guys pounding their feet on a scaffold. Julio Martinez

Tap Dogs

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