Wingin’ It With Roxane Butterfly: Rhythmic Kaleidoscope
The Faculty of the Australian Tap Dance Festival has come together to unite world-renowned tap dancers and local students on one stage, demonstrating a lighthearted but captivating sounding spectacle.
The show is set in a modest venue of a private girls’ school theatre, finished with carpeted floors and a highly raised matte-looking stage. In the left corner sits a silky black grand piano waiting patiently to be played. Tappers can be seen and heard shuffling through the wings backstage, while the audience is seeping in slowly. Each act would be no longer than three or four minutes, keep the audience on their toes along with the tappers. The dancing is fast-paced, energetic and super street.
If you have ever looked through the lens of a kaleidoscope, then you would understand the spectacle that encapsulates your eyes. The faculty puts audience members in a spell-binding trance during their acapella acts; the beats they can produce and at the speed of which they can produce them is gasp-worthy.
Talent from the younger students is nothing to brush off, either. Two young female dancers with Jack Egan absolutely glitz the stage with their impressive sounds and expressive faces. Brianna Taylor’s 90s hip hop and tap blend brings the students a funky new style. The younger generation of dancers brings back the tie-dye fluoro look as they dance to Prince with complex choreography.
If this show can prove one thing, it is tap can blend into any dancing style. If you are a fan for long legs and bowler hats, there are Broadway numbers with live vocals for you. If you are hot for some Flamenco, there are routines inspired by Paso Doble. The audience even gets to indulge in a little Michael Jackson tribute, where tappers, including Winston Morrison, moonwalk and grab their crotch every so often. Or if you love a little raw street tapping, the faculty tests the boundaries of time signatures, tempos, and amplitude with their impressive improvisations. Not to forget the cameo appearance of a ukulele rendition by Thomas Wadleton as he taps to the rhythm of his impeccable strumming.
The last act before the finale pushes the kaleidoscope effect into a completely different realm. The lights are pitch-black, as a video on the projector exports viewers back through tap dance history against a political and social background. Underneath the screen is a body crunched over, and it is none other than Roxane Butterfly; the first female tap dancer to win the prestigious Bessie award in New York. Her slow evolution begins to roll as she taps in an earthy manner, barefoot. The skin of her heels stamps the floor as clear as bell. Roxane eventually puts on her tap shoes and dives straight into the complex steps (improvised), going against Bach’s slow composition on the piano. Her extended performance has the audience truly captivated, but it is the faculty as a whole who truly makes this show come alive.
This festival represents the true meaning of tap. It is not competitive; it is purely sassy, earthy, raw and gritty. The performers share a dialogue with the crowd, asking spectators ‘how their day is going’ while performing a time step. It is this kind of casual essence that is missing from other forms of Western dance. We need to go back to our roots like this festival has done and discover the reason why we started dancing in the first place.
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