IT was 17 years ago that choreographer Dein Perry first created the global dance phenomenon known as “Tap Dogs”, and he’s still going strong.
But whereas in the old days, a lot of time was taken up hunting for likely “doggies”, these days the doggies will come to them.
“It’s easy to find guys now,” Perry tells me, and with the advance of technology, to audition you just post a dancing sequence to YouTube. What’s even better, Perry says, is that “Australian guys are the best tappers”.
Well, they’re pretty good in the US, but in the UK they’re scarce as hens’ teeth. “Maybe tap just isn’t in the culture,” suggests Tap Dog brother Sheldon Perry.
I’m talking to a whole pack of doggies in the foyer of the Canberra Theatre about both the blokeiness and dance skills needed for the show.
As Perry says, some of the boys would have been only three years old in 1995 when the dogs were first seen at the Sydney Festival.
That’s been no disadvantage for dancer Jesse Rasmussen (“Pretty well grew up enjoying ‘Tap Dogs’.”) or for Thomas Egan, who was “kinda pushed because my parents ran a dance school”. As Egan sees it, for blokes in dance, the “Tap Dogs” phenomenon has definitely changed things for the better.
“Dance is much more acceptable for boys… I didn’t get a bad time at school. I didn’t get bashed up,” he says.
Xander Ellis certainly didn’t. He went to Newtown High School of the Performing Arts so was heading for stage from the outset.
Nathanial Hancock, who started tap at the age of six at The Ritz Dance Studio in Brisbane, says: “It’s a different style now, very blokey and well accepted all around the world.” As for Matt Papa, the only Canberra doggie: “It’s been totally fun and the family has been accepting.”
Sheldon, the “foreman” in the show, is a professional dancer who first made his mark in “42nd Street”, but when brother Dein got an Australia Council grant for a tap workshop, he was hooked.
The Perry brothers can’t agree how many times they’ve toured the world with “Tap Dogs”, but they do agree that the Germans and the Americans are the audiences most likely to go wild about them.
Dein says: “It’s a big advantage that there are no language barriers.”
Of course, the brothers, being boys from Newcastle, are used to a lively multicultural environment.
But best of all is the way it draws new audiences.
“There’s a feeling of connection in these guys who would never go to the theatre, but get dragged along… there is a feeling that they’re saying to themselves: ‘I could possibly do that’,” he says.
“Tap Dogs”, Canberra Theatre, July 3-9. Bookings to 6275 2700.
PHOTO: “Tap Dogs” in action… “Australian guys are the best tappers”. Photo by Silas Brown