BWW Review: LONDON TAP DANCE INTENSIVE GALA PERFORMANCE, The London Cabaret Club
The London Tap Dance Intensive is the UK's top tap festival, and took place from Friday to Sunday last week.
Over the course of three days a variety of workshops were offered at three different studios; led by talented teachers from across the tap spectrum, they covered everything from rhythm choreography, call and response, partner work, and the crossover between tap and Irish dancing.
The festival culminated in a gala performance last night, hosted by Adam Garcia and Kane D. Ricca - the ultimate showcase for the genre, with some mind-blowing routines performed by a selection of top dancers.
Half of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Heads Together, a mental health initiative led by the Dukes and Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex. Its main aim is to tackle the stigma associated with mental health issues, and to encourage people to talk; Michelle Campbell talked briefly about the hashtag #OKToSay, and how she hopes people in the performing arts can find their own support networks if they are struggling.
For many people, Fred Astaire and the golden age of musicals is the first point of reference when they think about tap dance - while this remains a feather in its cap, it is only a fraction of what this particular brand of dance can do. Rather than tightly choreographed routines, most tap is improvised so it relies on the dancer's innate sense of rhythm and their ability to work with the music provided (be it a live band or recording), or a cappella. Tap dancers are constantly living on the edge, pushing their balance, stamina and musicality to the limit.
From a packed schedule there were a number of highlights. The gala kicked off in style with excerpts from the hotly anticipated Feet Keep Me Flyin', a narrative-led show written and choreographed by Jack Evans. Former Tap Dogs cast member Richie Miller took to the stage at several points during the evening, with both solo and group work, but it was his first slot performing an improvised call and response with the resident band that really caught the imagination.
Actor and dancer Lee Payne was an entertaining addition to the programme as he talked us through his life as a hoofer accompanied by a short improvised routine. Hamilton's Leslie Garcia Bowman also performed a jaw-dropping solo early on in the proceedings that proved hard to beat.
Whilst a sprinkling of variety is always a good thing, there was definitely enough of a range of different tap routines over the course of the evening to satisfy the audience without bringing in other genres on top of that.
Of course, the performances from the BRIT School, Rose Alice and Argentine Tango pairing Leandro and Maria were incredibly accomplished and enjoyable, but given that the event started an hour late and subsequently ran over time (shedding audience members along the way), I think they were trying to do too much by including these routines.
It's even more of a shame, as this meant a proportion of the audience missed perhaps the standout section of the night, when Old Kent Road took to the stage to perform routines from their current show OSCiLLATE - soon to be starting a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Combining music, movement and tap, it takes you on a sensory and emotional journey with compositions made specifically for the show.
An eye-opening event that was a true celebration of tap in all its glory.