Tap That

BATS Theatre, Wellington

12/09/2007 - 15/09/2007

Dance Your Socks Off

Production Details

The Magniloquents

Power-sliding into 2007, The Magniloquents formed out of a love of tap dancing, booty-shaking, musicals and bumping and grinding in the living room. Modern day Wellington will quake in their tap boots to eclectic music ranging from rocking to raunchy and everywhere in between. An explosive, seductive and fun look at the power of tap.

The Magniloquents are a mixed mob of predominantly new tap dancers in their twenties who banded together early this year to find a way to vent their shared obsession.

Season: Wednesday 12 – Saturday 15 September
Time: 8.30pm
Tickets: $16 full / $12 concession & groups 6+ / $10 DYSO Season Pass

book now! book@bats.co.nz

Hadleigh Walker, Melissa Pentecost, Sam Bunkall, Kate Baker, Julie Noever, Amanda Baker and guests

Dance , Music ,

40 mins

Loud music, local flavour, overt humour

Review by Jo Thorpe 13th Sep 2007

What is it about tap lately?  Last week the Arts channel screened Hot Shoe Shuffle – an Australian tap musical.  Then there was a programme on the a history of tap in the United States – a cultural product of the slave trade derived from Irish jigs and Lancashire clog dancing but heavily influenced by the musicality of African tribal dances.  We learnt that after its heydey of the1930s and ’40s, tap dancing fell out of favour (black tappers being seen as having compromised themselves, as Uncle Toms), but it enjoyed a revival in the ’80s and ’90s as the white gloves and tuxedo were thrown out in favour of sexier clothes and contemporary music, and dancers began using tap to convey story and complex emotional states. 

And now here in Wellington, we get Tap That – tap NZ-style, in which six young actors combine their consummate performance skills with an apparently newly-found love of rhythm (all but one donning tap shoes for the first time only 6 months ago).

Tap That is a rollicking 40 minutes of fun, complete with pink frocks and tuxedos teamed with football shorts.  Early on, we get glimpses of Kiwi culture in the allusions to rugby scrums and lineouts, and the music is an eclectic mix ranging from hip hop and rap, to crooning and krumping. 

The opening night audience of enthusiastic supporters is all fired up as two dancers take the stage to hold up a white square onto which is projected a witty film by Barnaby Frederic. We hear excerpts from Peer Gynt’s Morning Song but are soon made to think Chariots of Fire as our seven unlikely heroes are summoned from various points of the Wellington waterfront – a boat on the harbour, Frank Kitts Park, the Athfield bridge, the suggestively wiggling Len Lye wind sculpture and a grassy swathe – possibly Mt Victoria.  Dressed in primary colours, they assemble to put on their tap shoes and begin.

Much of the success of Tap That lies in the performance skills of the cast.  From the start, each stays within character – the slightly dazed-looking femme fatale, the tall self-conscious learner, the bitch, the competitive type, the reserved plain one.  Part of tap’s appeal has always been that it has a gestural capacity for a true comedy of the body. Its fundamentally mundane origins in the act of walking, make its intricacies all the more marvellous.  In Tap That, each member of the cast makes the body talk through skilful use of small gestures and expressive nuance. 

The first item succeeds with simple toe tapping, crisp timing, and effective use of eyes and facial expressions. Then there is a follow-the-leader type number using knock-about antics with each dancer trying to outdo the other.  A personal highlight is the Big Girls piece in which a tall male in red cummerbund and tux enters sucking on a milkshake.  He simulates someone taking the first painful steps in learning to tap … Then, finding himself alone, he breaks out into fluid ripples of expressionistic dancing … until a girl enters, at which point he immediately reverts to self conscious Mr Awkward. 

Providing a welcome change of dynamic and break from the music, there is an unaccompanied group number, followed by an accomplished slinky solo by choreographer and teacher, Kate Baker, the most experienced member of the group, who, with her comparative lightness, silent slides, rises ‘en pointe’, syncopated clapping, thigh slapping and neat split jumps, evokes the American tappers of the ’30s.

A cowgirl number from Out West features two female dancers who shrug their shoulders, thrust pelvises, tip their cowboy hats, then swing their legs over imaginary horses and ride off into the sunset.  In another dance, three males incorporate acrobatic stunts, cartwheels and handstands, and the boisterous finale effectively uses freeze frame lighting through to the practised bow.

The audience loved it – the loud music, the local flavour, the overt humour.  From a dance perspective, I missed a certain liquidity of movement and calm grace associated with American stars such as Earl ‘Snakehips’ Tucker or Chuck Green.  But this is billed as comic tap – "not your nana’s tap dancing" – and that’s exactly what we get: a humorous concept professionally realised by a talented and expressive cast of young actors who have discovered dance. 
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Fan of Paraparaumu September 14th, 2007

As a couple of totally biased fans we would like to congratulate all the That's Tap dancers and crew. We loved them all and especially the tall one. We had a wonderful toe tapping night on Wed. enjoying every minute. Hope we are still around when you are walking up the red carpet.

Dance fan of Epuni September 13th, 2007

Brave stuff.

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