Backstreet Boys and Britney, tap-style

"Tap" as in tap dance, not "tap" as in "secret societies" or "Tap Stephenson, editor-in-chief of the YDN."
"Tap" as in tap dance, not "tap" as in "secret societies" or "Tap Stephenson, editor-in-chief of the YDN." // Samantha Gardner

Remember the ’90s? Back when Britney was still hot and the Spice Girls were still together? Back before Taylor Swift had suffered her first breakup and before Justin Bieber was even born?

Well, this weekend, you can relive those days. Only one block from Toad’s, where hapless students pulse to the beat of One Direction, you can go back to a time when boy bands actually had deep voices and chest hair. Or tap back to that time, as it were.

“Tap to the Future,” the TAPS dance company’s 2013 show, is a tribute to five decades of memorable music — peaking with the ’90s — made five times more lively by the energetic moves of 13 Yale tappers. The diversity of the numbers and the wacky skits interspersed throughout the show create an energy that’s infectious.

Maybe you heard tap dancing and thought you’d be getting an evening of Shirley Temple-style moves, good technique but little variety (okay, so, maybe those were just my first thoughts). Well, from the minute the show begins, Yale TAPS lets you know that is not the case. In the opening scene of the show, the audience is invited into Doc’s time-traveling DeLorean, a device borrowed from the show’s namesake, Steven Spielberg’s “Back to the Future.” After that, the stage is set for a wide variety of numbers that range from Adele’s “Rumor Has It” to “Audition” from “42nd Street.”

Still, TAPS does include some old-school scenes for fans of classic tap. Rebecca Treger ’12 GRD ’19 MED ’20 and Isabella More ’10 LAW ’13 perform “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” with subtle moves and impressive technique. Swinging their canes and tipping those hats, they offer a tribute to the king of tap, Fred Astaire.

And then zooming forward from the 1930s, the dancers do a number to Colbie Caillat’s “Brighter than the Sun.” Three tappers wearing bright sundresses and goofy grins match their delicate twirls to a light tapping beat. It feels a bit like going to your little sister’s dance recital — it’s perky and even the dancers are giggling throughout the number.

The weakest link in the show’s series of entertaining numbers comes in Act Two. While a number choreographed to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from “Mulan” sounds promising, the pieces of the scene don’t quite come together. The tappers’ beat clashes with the melody of the song and the light-hearted dance moves just don’t fit the dramatic music. Though tap dance can be matched with many genres of music, the issues with the “Mulan” number illustrate that the pairing has to be intentional. A tap beat does have the potential to animate a song, but it can also clash with it completely.

Still, throughout the entire show — and even during the weaker “Mulan” number — the company ensures that its production appears smooth and impressive. The production crew is especially inventive with the space, the jealously guarded Off-Broadway Theater, and the lighting. A bright orange bulb transforms the stage for the dancers’ “Brighter than the Sun” scene, and the crew adds energy to the finale with flashing neon lights. The show overall is about far more than just the dance moves. The company makes a concerted effort to interact with the audience and include them in the excitement. Before the finale, Becky Connelly ’16 plays “Name that Tap” with the audience, tapping out the tunes to popular classics like “Eye of the Tiger” and Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony,” handing out candy to audience members who can accurately identify the songs. This isn’t a case of high art being thrown in your face — it’s a conversation. (And you get a prize!)

I know what you’re thinking — by dance No. 9, the audience has candy, Fred Astaire and Disney, but where, oh where, are the ’90s? The final number gives the crowd the explosion they’ve been looking for. Bringing together the genius of the Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, Destiny’s Child and more, the finale is full of booming taps and big dance moves. Safety may be dead, but this scene definitely brought neon back.

If you’re not in the mood for Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen at Toad’s this week, head back to the past with Yale TAPS. I’ll wager that, before the show is through, these tappers will make a fan out of you.

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