The Australian Tap Dance Festival
(ATDF) wrapped up last night with its gala event - Rhythmic Kaleidoscope
This annual festival is unique to Melbourne - the only event of its kind in Australasia. Attracting a world-class line-up of dancers, the festival offers a week of tap introductory classes, master classes, jams, competitions and seminars.
Headline act Roxane Butterfly last night. (Image from the ATDF Facebook page.)
featured the 'best of the best' from the festival, while also offering tappers of all ages the opportunity to showcase their talents.
It was an interesting, diverse and inclusive program, spanning over 90 minutes. I'm no expert in tap, so I'm not going to specifically critique performances, but I will mention a few standouts.
There was a lively and engaging start to the show, with an 'all-in' number based on a concept from master rhythm tap dancer Lon Chaney. This one had the audience tapping their feet from the start.
Dancers Brianna Taylor and Winston Morrison. (Image from the ATDF Facebook page.)
It was followed with a contrasting number - A Fine Romance: The Magic of Fred Astaire
, performed by Imogen Moore and Joe Meldrum. This sweet performance is an extract from their show of the same name, running at Chapel off Chapel from 10th - 15th October. If you like your tap with an overlay of old world charm and timeless music from the likes of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, you'll love this show. You can find more information here
With 22 acts in this show, I can't mention each individually, but Act 1 was rounded out by some amazing solo performances by dancers including Darren Disney, Shane Preston and Leanne Driel. The final performance before interval was very different again, with Christine Etherington, Garry Stocks and Winston Morrison dancing to Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal
Act 2 saw the dance dynamism go up a notch - if that was possible! It was dominated by the performance of headline act Roxane Butterfly
, (first woman in the history of tap dance to win the prestigious Bessie Award
). Commencing with a multi-media piece created as a 'metaphor for birth, growth and death', Butterfly first tapped barefoot - which commanded total silence from the audience as we listened for the soft 'thuds' of her feet on the stage that create their own rhythm and music. Quickly donning her tap shoes for the second part of her solo performance, Butterfly's versatility was apparent. It was a mesmerising performance.
Butterfly rounded out her performance by inviting participants of the ATDF's five-day residency to join her on stage.
All too soon it was time for the classic closing piece, the Shim Sham
, a tradition in tap shows since the early 1900s. Anyone who knew the steps was invited on stage for the big finale.
Even as an audience member who knows virtually nothing about the technical aspects of tap dance, I couldn't help but be impressed by the energy and dynamism exhibited by the dancers, and the varying styles of performance - from funk to Flamenco to hip-hop.
I loved that the performance included some quite young children - what a bonus to get this experience at such a young age!
I could make a grumble or two about the show, including the show starting around 20 minutes or so late (which meant the audience was crammed in a small lobby area waiting for the doors to the hall to open), and some technical issues with the sound - a little frustrating as it was difficult at times to hear the commentary and singing.
But really, the dance is the hero in this show, and once the dance performance started, these problems were largely forgotten.
Overall, this was a fun evening, and anyone interested in dance or physical performance would love this event.
If you missed Rhythmic Kaleidoscope this year, keep an eye out for the 2018 ATDF dates!
If you missed out on this year's Australian Tap Dance Festival, alas, you will have to wait a year for it to be back. Stay tuned for news and updates via the ATDF website
and Facebook page