Tap dancer Leah Itagaki ’11 describes the Taps winter show as “eclectic and weird and happy.” I can’t say I was surprised to hear this of a show entitled EnTAPrise: Tap Long and Prosper, and after seeing the hour-long tap dance extravaganza, I heartily agree on all three counts. EnTAPrise, which opens this weekend in the Off Broadway Theater, sets out to “tap where no one has tapped before,” and it succeeds in tackling pretty much anything but the standard musical theater faire. I actually missed seeing their typical cutesy numbers, (2008’s Newsies medley stands out as a highlight), but ultimately found six stony faced tappers dancing their hearts out to Mulan pretty irresistible.
There were some things that were rather confusing, like the gorilla that made its way into one of the interludes, and the person obviously dressed as a malicious version of Tofu Apple Crisp wiggling her cardboard self at a bunch of tap dancing Power Rangers. This was all part of the experience, of course, although perhaps the interludes were more amusing from backstage.
Amid the uniformly delightful and self consciously cheesy choreography, some pieces stood out, like Tasia Smith’s show opener, “Disco Taps.” What might have been a mediocre jazz routine becomes a totally compelling rhythmic experience, and the choreography is cleaner than I’ve ever seen Taps before (this was true of the whole show, actually). Major props go to Amanda Calhoun, whose Matrix themed “Red Pill: Tap into Reality,” combines unique choreography and a sense of the theatrical into what might be the world’s first dance theater tap piece. Its occasional clumsiness kept it from being my favorite, but it was the most interesting and creative, hands down. “Single Tappers” takes the cake, though. It’s worth it to come if only to see senior Ashley Douglas work her own choreography at least as hard as Beyonce. It is so intense.
As much as I love Taps, I will warn you that this is not what you would call fine art. This isn’t the most technically strong dance group, the finale was a little bit of a letdown after some of the high energy pieces that preceded it, and there’s a real range in the performers’ comfort onstage. But it’s okay, I promise. You don’t come to a Taps show for that stuff. You come to get your yearly dose of kitsch and good clean fun, and to witness the rare site of a group of people jumping around and having a genuinely good time while sober. They have a glow in the dark galaxy on the ceiling, and they gave me candy for recognizing ‘happy birthday’ in ‘name that tap.’ I left definitively warmer and fuzzier than when I came. It’s less than an hour long. It’s free. It’s packed with terrible puns and cheesy goodness. I can’t think of any reason not to go.