Tap dance has come a long way since Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and shows like 42nd Street. Today it’s all about muscle, noise, phenomenal athleticism, and power.
And one of the best, and most inventive, international groups, Tap Factory, is now in the UK on a whistle-stop tour. Last night it played at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre.
Its “workers” are largely European but there’s no language barrier to their performance skills. There’s the frame of a story on which the show is based and it appears to be set in a – yes, you’ve guessed it – a factory with its workers breaking up their shift with a spot of impromptu dancing and drumming.
The set is heavy duty industrial with most of the cast of eight proving thrilling percussionists as well as electrifying dancers.
The only cast member not generally taking part is their star turn, former Polish Olympic gymnast and now aerial acrobat Maciej Labutin whose astonishing feats of strength and dexterity, both on and high above the stage, earned him a gold medal from last night’s audience.
He comes on throughout the show to demonstrate his amazing upper body strength and he is exceptional to watch.
Jéremie Champagne is the clown prince of the production, the new boy at the factory who tries to endear himself to the others with his dance skills. He’s an exceptional dancer and, in one routine, Sand Dance, performs an enthralling routine barefoot.
The 100-minute show, devised, choreographed and performed by the group’s founder, Vincent Pausanias, and features additional dancers Michael Newman and Lee Meadows, acrobat Andrea Catozzzi, drummer Karim Torqui and dancer/comedian Jorffy Mayomba.
Mayomba, playing the factory’s janitor, opens the show, standing in the stalls and gabbling away at top speed in a foreign language that none of the theatre-goers understands. It’s supposed to be amusing but it’s a disaster. It is unfunny, flat and met with complete confusion and silence by the baffled audience.
This is the only disappointment in the whole show because the muscular Mayomba is an exception street dancer who later gives a thrilling demonstration of his abilities.
An eternally long ten minutes later the show itself starts with an explosive drumming sequence, which should be the real opener. Called The Machine, its raw explosive power is a taste of what’s to come.
The show is all about originality and Champagne and Torqui cleverly use a step ladder to tap out beats, Pausanias later turns a broom, oil drum and a piece of string into a rockin’ bass and the sounds of the factory are brought alive by some spectacular rhythmic drumming sequences.
Tap Factory is brash, noisy, exciting, high energy show but it needs to rethink its direction. The comedy doesn’t work – though Champagne’s token abuse at the hands of his workmates is rather fun – while the high octane percussion pieces and dance routines are enthralling.
The power and skill-sets of its performers are waiting to be utilised to showcase to larger audiences some of the new styles of dance now being performed in smaller, more specialised arenas. This is a show that could grow and grow.
Tap Factory 2016 UK Tour Dates
March 31 : GRIMSBY – Auditorium
April 1 : SHREWSBURY – Severn Theatre
April 2 : DURHAM – Gala Theatre
April 3 : CLACTON – West Cliff Theatre
April 5 : SWANSEA – Grand Theatre
April 6 : TUNBRIDGE WELLS – Assembly Hall Theatre
April 7 : BASINGSTOKE – The Anvil Theatre
April 8 : TORQUAY – Princess Theatre
April 9 : SOUTHSEA – Kings Theatre.
Thrilling, muscular & athletic. Tap Factory, now touring the UK, is an electrifying dance show that’s weak on comedy.