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'Tap Dogs,' fun in motion


Tap dancing will never be the same. Tap Dogs, the six-man tap ensemble created by Australian Dein Perry, is like nothing you've ever seen. These boys are loud, brash and cheeky. This is tap with Attitude, a rousing good time.

Born in a steel-mill neighborhood north of Sidney, the group still retains the blue-collar patina of its former industrial machinists and security guards. Outfitted in jeans, flannel shirts and steel-toed work boots, they are a working man's company and the amplified rhythms they stomp out are the driving rock-and-roll rhythms of today. Their humor is lowbrow and they are what they are -- a bunch of hard-dancing guys. For 90 nonstop minutes, they dance, sweat, joke and construct their metal set.

Under the guidance of the Alpha Dog, Perry, the men workout like a crew under a foreman: He calls the shots and the men respond.

The opening section introduces performers Darren Disney, Ben Read, Drew Kaluski, Nathan Sheens and Christopher Horsey in a typical ham bone format. Each has a particular style, a distinct tap personality. The straight-forward delivery of Kaluski is sharply contrasted to the glamour flash of Disney. The coltish Read responds to his mentor, Perry. Sheens is the class clown and Horsey has a suave yet no-nonsense approach. The show has a lot of hot-dogging and comradely one upmanship that is both genuine and funny.

Under Nigel Triffett's direction, the show unfolds seamlessly, with one section literally building on the next. Despite the special effects, amplified sound and morphing set, the dancing still outweighs any Oz-like invention even when things turn gimmicky.

One can't help compare this group to Stomp, the other high-energy stage show. Tap Dogs has more testosterone and fewer dancers.

Tap Dogs' special moments include a duet between the seasoned Perry and young Read, which had overtones of fatherly advice in their exchange of tap movements. Sheens' hyper-coordinated duet with a basketball was simply amazing. The Tap Dogs also pay homage to past tap greats.

When they dance in a trough of water, it brings to mind images of Gene Kelly splashing through "Singing In The Rain" and when they hoof it on steep, inclined ramps, they acknowledge Busby Berkeley's elaborate sets.

And, when the entire ensemble puts its feet to the floor in well-oiled unison, the effect is high-voltage pleasure.

'Tap Dogs'

Where: Morris Mechanic Theatre

When: Thursday, Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Sunday 2 p.m. and 7: 30 p.m.

Tickets: $27.50 to $37.50

Call: (410) 625-4251

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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