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BWW Review: TAP DOGS at Kennedy Center

BWW Review: TAP DOGS at Kennedy Center
The company of Tap Dogs. Photo by Chris Richardson.

The art of tap dancing is taken to new the high octane, high energy worldwide sensation known as Tap Dogs. Not only do the six male performers do traditional tap routines in this 80-minute industrial extravaganza, they take it to places tap hasn't gone before incorporating, water, scaffolding blowtorches, and more.

Dein Perry's creation pushes the limits of what tap can achieve onstage as the six dancers and their two equally brilliant female percussionists take us for a wild ride to be sure. While there is no story line in Tap Dogs, I guess you could peg Foreman (Anthony Russo) as the top dog. He pretty much controls his pups through the performance.

Think about some of the tap shows you have seen before. Maybe you have seen Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Savion Glover or Gregory Hines do a tap routine on television or onstage. It is classic tap performed in a classy style. Now I want you to picture eight construction worker types tapping while dribbling basketballs and splashing around on a water-soaked platform. This is not your granny's tap show.

Other highlights include the ensemble tapping on a series of ramps at varying angles, a section that has the tappers performing with a series of ropes, and - my personal favorite - a challenge dance between Russo and one of the other dancers.

The music by Andrew Wilkie is a combination of tracked beats with two fierce female percussionists who are housed in view above. Noriko Terada and Caitlin Kalafus are as fun to watch as the dancers.

I found Andy Jackson's sound design to be a bit more piercing than necessary and Craig Wilkinson's projections, as eye popping as they are, are also in need of a bit of an overhaul. The imagery was not as crisp as it should have been and the video signal itself had various specks and pixels making appearances throughout the show.

Gavin Norris' lighting is blinding at points, but he does create some very interesting and creative looks and effects.

There is no denying that Tap Dogs grabs - and at some points throttles - its audience with its take on the form. I really appreciate the ensemble's performances and the show's mission to show tap in a modern way. Maybe if the tech elements were as classily executed as the dance, I could get behind Tap Dogs even more.

Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission.

Tap Dogs was a three-day engagement at the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC from February 22 to 24, 2019.

For upcoming Tap Dogs tour dates, click here.

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