It’s been a while since 1995 when Australian show, Tap Dogs, took the world by storm and put tap dancing on the mainstream map by making it industrial and cool. These days, tap dancing pops up in commercial shows or Broadway inspired musicals, but there are not many opportunities to watch it live. Despite this, there is a bustling and highly enthusiastic community of tappers right here in Melbourne and more broadly, in pockets Australia wide.  

The Australian Tap Dance Festival is a chance for this crew to come together every year in Melbourne and do a non-stop week of master classes and residencies with the best tappers in the business. It culminates with a gala evening at Chapel Off Chapel. 2022’s gala is called Sounds Inspired – an apt name for a show that features tap in so many glorious forms, from Vaudeville to salsa-infused, accented with Irish dance and often, to no music at all with only the rhythms reverberating loud and clear from an empty stage.  

Being an inclusive festival, with performers ranging in age from about seven to 90, the gala is a feel-good evening that showcases all levels of participants alongside the faculty choreographers. Impressively, all the group pieces came together in only five days of workshops.

Eden Read, in top hat and tails, hosts the show, occasionally jumping on stage to give context and introductions to the acts. Despite having a lot of routines, the gala rolled along at a snappy pace, with a solid mix of large, energetic group acts interspersed with faculty solos that allowed the professionals to reveal their personal styles.  

Garry Stock’s offering had a uniquely contemporary dance edge and Bill Simpson’s had a delicate internality, just two examples of the possibilities within the genre. Leanne Driel’s solo shined not only for her zingy technique but also the enjoyment she was having dancing it. This also came across when she accompanied an adult beginner student in their performance – it’s very hard to believe the student had only been tapping for five days! 

In all the big routines, professional potential is clearly in the ranks, especially noticeable in the athletic numbers like Charles Cameron and Peta Anderson’s residencies that crammed a lot of detailed rhythms and high-level technique into choreography that briskly moved multiple bodies through space.  

The Ros Hendy dancers – with an average age of about 75 years old, took down the house with Fascinating Rhythm (from Singin in the Rain). They proved the point that, providing one puts in the practice, tap dance is for everybody – at any age and ability.

All the dancers in the gala conveyed pure joy in dancing, which radiated off stage to the entire full house. Combine that with the multi-generational emerging and distinguished talent on display and the Australian Tap Festival is punching well above its weight by nurturing both the grassroots and elite of the tap community.

Event details

Sounds Inspired
Australian Tap Dance Festival Gala

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel Street Prahran VIC
Dates: 1 October 2022
Tickets: $40 – $35
Bookings: chapeloffchapel.com.au

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