Tap really takes advantage of a dancer’s showmanship: it’s as much about how well you sell it as it is about what you can actually do. Untapped ‘taps in’ to that facet of tap dancing with a vengeance, using anything and everything they can to successfully pull a reaction out of their audience. Even in a venue that was obviously not designed for tappers, Untapped creates a show that’s quirky, dynamic, and celebrates all the things you can do with a tap shoe (and sometimes without).
Untapped, like its predecessors Virada and Tap Dogs, features a small ensemble of dancers, a percussive soundtrack, some wild tricks and plenty of cocky grins. However, Untapped finds its individuality with quirky acts like tap and percussion routines performed entirely with thongs and flippers, and, of course, their excellent beatboxer Genesis.
Tap is a challenge for even the most accomplished dancer; it requires musicality, dexterity and agility, and everyone can hear it if you make a mistake. Luckily dancers Jack Chambers, Sally Hare, Brianna Taylor, Keiran Heilbronn and Ginner Whitcombe are masters at performing in unison while also maintaining an individual flair.
Brianna Taylor brings sass in spades, alternating easily between classic, jazzy routines and the more forceful hip-hop ensemble numbers. Although her arms occasionally feel a little classical and forced, she loosens up considerably as the show goes on. Keiran Heilbronn is unassuming and endearing, but also manages to pull out some crowd-wowing, adrenaline-filled acrobatic tricks, and while Sally Hare’s expression sometimes gives away how hard she’s concentrating, it’s easy to see why; her tricks are intense and her beats are crystal clear.
Ginner Whitcombe’s parts are certainly the funniest (although each cast member has their moments), and, when it comes to technique and audience engagement, choreographer and performer Jack Chambers is a standout; his skills in tap, contemporary and audience engagement make it clear to see why he won the first season of Australia’s So You Think You Can Dance.
In addition to a strong group of dancers with very novel routines, Untapped’s success is also thanks to Genesis, who brings something fun and new to beatboxing. It’s not uncommon to see beatboxers these days, and often, no matter how good they are, the whole art form can be difficult to appreciate if the beatboxer isn’t doing much to connect with the audience.
Genesis, luckily, does just the opposite – with references and sampling from family favourites like “Summer Lovin’” and “Let It Go”, as well as a crowd favourite scene where he works with percussionist Brendan Ramnath to create a convincing set of air drums, Genesis’ performance is varied and vivifying. Both as a soloist and as a part of the band (who are excellent in their own right), he is a generous and enjoyable performer.
The only real issue with Untapped is its venue. The Vagabond’s seating arrangement meant that only some members of the audience could see the performers’ feet. With stand-up comedians or vocalists (some of The Vagabond’s key clientele), or even with other forms of dance, this may not be a major issue, but if you cannot see a tapper’s feet you miss out on most of the choreography. Audience members could be seen attempting to move to different sections of the tent midway through the show or attempting to hold their children over their head so they could see. Particularly in a show where everyone pays the same price for their ticket regardless of seating, this kind of discrepancy in view shouldn’t happen.
Although the audience’s view certainly wasn’t clear, one thing was; Untapped is an exciting, funny, and unpretentious piece of dance theatre. If more dance were like this, with such a focus on wow-factor and entertainment, I bet auditoriums and theatres would fill up a lot more easily.