Dallas — Tap lovers in Dallas rejoice! Not only will the long-running tap production STOMP be at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts this weekend, but the hard-hitting Australian tap troupe, Dein Perry’s Tap Dogs, will also be performing at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House on March 24. Described as part theatre, part dance, part rock concert and construction site, this show is crammed with high-energy dance, theatrical performance and music performed by the cast and live musicians.
Conceived and choreographed in 1994 by Dein Perry, Tap Dogs made a big noise at the 1995 Sydney Festival and the Edinburgh Festival later that year where it won the Glasgow Herald Angel Award. Since then Tap Dogs has performed in 330 cities and 37 countries. The show has also received more than 11 international awards, including a 1997 NY Obie Award, the Pegasus Award from the Spoleto festival, the Australian Variety Award for Entertainer of the Year and the Mo Award for Show business Ambassador in 1998.
I got a chance to catch up with Reid Perry, Dein Perry’s son, last week to talk about his working relationship with his Dad, performing in his first world tour and how Tap Dogs has changed the way audiences think about and view tap dance.
An Australian native, Reid began his dance training at Tap Pups under his Dad. His early years were filled with performance opportunities, including the Sydney Lord Mayor’s New Year’s Eve Party at the Sydney Opera House, The Footy Show, Luna Park re-opening and the World Masters Games Opening Ceremony. He made his Tap Dogs debut in 2016 and since then has continued to perform with them at corporate events across Australia.
Back home Reid is studying an Advanced Diploma in Performing Arts at ED5 International in Sydney where he has been fortunate enough to play roles including Zach from “A Chorus Line” as well as perform alongside Australian celebrities such as Marcia Hines. This show marks his first world tour with Tap Dogs.
TheaterJones: How are you enjoying your first world tour with Tap Dogs?
Reid Perry: With it being my first tour just getting to see so many different countries has been really cool. At times it has been overwhelming because of the amount of places we’re going, but it has been really fun and I am always excited when we go to a new country or every time we arrive in a new place and we get to see and do new things.
How long do you get to spend at each location of the tour?
It varies from place to place. We’ve been to places where we’d do eight shows per week and we just stay in that one theater in that one city like we did in London. That way we had a few weeks to check out London. But what we’re doing right now is a road trip through the United States where we’re generally staying in places one to two days max. So, it’s hard to really see each place in situations like this, but generally it’s like an eight show week.
With such a rigorous schedule is there anything in particular that you do to prevent illness and injury while on tour?
The very simple answer is to always eat healthy. I mean you generally do not want to eat a massive meal too close to a show. So just eating healthy because when you’re traveling your immune system can get low. So eating healthy along with always stretching before and after shows so you don’t cause injury because it’s such a dangerous and full-on show. Injuries are always bound to happen so it’s important that we are stretching and making sure we are warm before going on stage to make sure that the injuries are minimal.
What makes the show so dangerous?
The tapping itself isn’t really the most dangerous thing, but the set that we are working with definitely is dangerous. In the show we are basically working on a construction site so we are building the set as we go along. So we’re tapping on different surfaces and on different levels and at one point we are tapping upside down. We are also tapping on ramps, ladders and water so there are a lot of elements that can cause injury in the show. So, it’s definitely the set that we build that makes the show so dangerous.
You have two musicians traveling with you. How are they integrated into the set?
Yes! We have two female percussionists traveling with us, and they’re behind the set on two big drum towers so they are sort of above us for the whole show. It’s really cool because the set is getting built in front so you can look behind and they are right up top above it all. And you can see them drumming live, which is just cool to see.
What is your working relationship like with your dad?
He was my first tap teacher and started me in the back shed behind our home when I was three years old. Then when he started his own tap school, Tap Pups, I was with them for most of my life so I think when we go into a scenario like Tap Dogs we are able to keep it just about business, which I think it really cool. I mean there is still a father and son element in there, but when we were rehearsing and I was being put into the show with the cast for the first time we were simply focused on that task. So we have never had any problem with him being my Dad. If anything it made me want to work harder to make sure I knew that I belonged there.
What is the atmosphere like in rehearsals with your Dad?
I wouldn’t call him strict at all. He likes to joke around with the boys. Because I was the only new person to come into the show everyone else understood their role and knew what they were doing so it wasn’t ever a strict atmosphere. It was a very cool and laid back process.
When did your Dad approach you about doing the show?
Well, there hasn’t been a tour of Tap Dogs in a few years so I was at home studying for an Advanced Diploma in Performing Arts when he came to me about it. And I feel like a few years ago even I could admit that I definitely wouldn’t have been ready for the show. And I think my studies have helped me a lot to be a part of the show because there are a lot of acting elements in the show as well. So it just came to a point where the guy who was playing the role of the Kid (Nathaniel Hancock ) has gotten too old to play the Kid now so he has moved on to a more adult role and they needed a new Kid and my Dad just thought that I was ready at the time.
Can you tell me more about your dance training growing up in Australia?
The only dance school that I ever learned tap was at Tap Pups with Dad for a lot of my early years. And then he brought in a guy called Nathan Sheens who was an original member of the show and he along with Dad in separate classes led me into my teenage years. I was maybe 15 or 16 when I went to my first tap festival. There are a couple of tap festivals in Australia right now, which is really awesome.
Growing up I always learned that Tap Pup style, like that high-hitting style, but it was cool going to these festivals and seeing a whole different array of tap dance styles. It’s also really awesome in the show now to see the American tap dancers and the Australian tap dancers and see what they bring to table. Like we will be jamming before a show and we’ll start to see some new steps and stuff, and it’s really cool to see other elements besides that high-hitting style that I grew up learning.
» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com