David Atkins’ Hot Shoe Shuffle returns to the Australian stage!
Read Dance Informa’s interview with the amazing David Atkins.
Posted on 01 June 2013.
David Atkins’ Hot Shoe Shuffle returns to the Australian stage!
Read Dance Informa’s interview with the amazing David Atkins.
Posted on 01 June 2013.
By Nicole Saleh.
Australia’s own Song and Dance Man, David Atkins, returns to the stage to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of his highly successful and original tap dance musical, Hot Shoe Shuffle. It’s a full circle for Atkins who has achieved international fame as a performer, choreographer, producer and director, with accolades that include producing the Opening Ceremonies for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and New Zealand Rugby World Cup.
Lacing up his tap shoes once again, Atkins is back on the Australian stage taking on the more senior role of Dexter, the father of the seven Tap Brothers and their long lost sister April. Twenty-one years on, it’s a new era for the show with many of the young cast only toddlers when Hot Shoe Shuffle first premiered back in 1993.
This highly entertaining musical pays tribute to the big band era of the 1940s, and stays true to its original storyline, which is a homage to the American vaudeville circuit and showcases tap dancing at its best. In 1995, the show was internationally recognised with a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Choreographer for Atkins and Dein Perry, and in the same year it also won an Australian Green Room Award for “Best Original Choreography.”
As a loyal fan of the original musical, I was thrilled to meet David Atkins and get the inside story on the return of Hot Shoe Shuffle, how it launched the careers of some of Australia’s best tap dancers and why it’s a show not to be missed!
What can people expect from the musical Hot Shoe Shuffle?
Anyone who has seen it before will be coming back to experience what they saw the first time, which is fantastic dancing! The show is predominantly (and was inspired by) tap dance, but it’s a fully fledged musical, so you’ve got these fantastic tap routines that are combined with great songs, and the music is all well known big band hits of the 40s and 50s.
With the new production we’re actually lifting the stakes and increasing the skill sets of the boys (the seven Tap Brothers). We’ve really got the potential of eclipsing what we did the first time, and part of that is due to the fact that the boy’s skill sets are so much stronger because there’s been 20 years since Hot Shoe started and Tap Dogs in-between, and lots of other shows. Also we’ve got a lot of new stage technology that has developed in that time, so I think the show visually and in dance terms is going to be better than it ever was.
Is it true that Hot Shoe Shuffle launched the career of Adam Garcia (Saturday Night Fever, Coyote Ugly) and Dein Perry (Tap Dogs), and paved the way for Tap Dogs?
Absolutely. It preceded Tap Dogs, so the first show that Dein ever choreographed and worked on (in a production sense) was Hot Shoe, and it was off the back of Hot Shoe that he actually did Tap Dogs.
I pulled Adam out of school – I actually had to go and convince his mum to let him leave the HSC. He was 17 and I made an agreement with his mum that he would come back a year later and do it by correspondence. Of course, a year later he was on the West End. So, Addy’s first big show was Hot Shoe and it took him overseas, and while he was doing Hot Shoe in London, the producers of Saturday Night Fever and Grease saw him and that’s how his career developed in London.
The original Hot Shoe Shuffle was choreographed by yourself and Dein Perry. Will you be working with Dein to revisit and update any of the choreography?
Absolutely. Dein and I have already talked about that. And because of the skill set and the 20 years in-between when we originally created those steps, Dein wants to get back into the rehearsal room with us. We’re not going to throw the baby out with the bath water. We’re going to keep the essence of the show but there is definitely the chance to improve and also to take on the skills of the boys and bring this back into the show.
Do you have any plans to bring Dancin’ Dynamite or any of your previous shows back to the stage?
No. [Laughs.] I don’t know how those shows would go now. I think they’re very much of their time. The one thing about Hot Shoe is that it’s universal in terms of the time because it’s a period piece, the nostalgia aspect of it worked. People loved it in the 90s and they’ve loved it each time it’s come back again. We’ve also done a special treatment of it. It’s got a Dick Tracy, cartoon-feel about it and all the elegance of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies in the second half. I think that’s something that audiences really respond to and anyone who has seen a technicolour musical or a black-and-white Fred and Ginger movie will love the show because that’s what we’re paying homage to.
Did you find it difficult to cast the show, and what were you looking for in the auditions?
We cast the show across three states and we saw a lot of people. It’s a difficult show to cast because we’re not only looking for fantastic dancers. They also have to fit into the character types and they’ve got to be able to sing and act.
One of the things that has also happened in the 20 years since we did it the first time is that kids and their training have really broadened. So in those days if you were a tap dancer you were pretty much a tap dancer. Now if you’re a tap dancer you’ve got to be able to act and sing and you’ve got to be a genuine triple threat, and that’s what we saw in the auditions. Some of these boys are great singers too. So, what we were looking for were people who could fill all of those things. I think by the time we finished the auditions we had pretty much two or three boy candidates for every role, so we were pretty lucky. We’ve got a great group.
What are you looking forward to most about this show?
You know what, it didn’t really click or register until I started looking at footage of the old show, and I’d have to say getting back on stage with this show is going to be really reinvigorating, and it’s going to be good for my soul, because basically this show has got such a great sense of good will and joy about it and we really had so much fun when we put it together and we performed it. I think that was infectious and it transferred from the stage across the footlights to the audience and that’s the success of the show.
Looking at it today, I was watching it and thinking, ‘You know what? I love doing this and it was actually great fun.’ So I’d forgotten in worrying about ticket sales and production elements, and seasons and booking theatres and all that. I sort of lost touch with why I was doing it. That’s why I’m doing it, because it’s just great fun to do!
So this is the first time that you’ve returned to the stage in 15 years? Originally you played the role of Spring (lead Tap Brother) and now Dexter (Father of The Tap Brothers). How have you prepared for this role?
Yes, I can’t even remember the last time I was on stage! I couldn’t play Spring 21 years later because my legs just wouldn’t stand up for it. I’m back into training and I’m pretty fit generally, but fortunately, Dexter is much more an acting and singing role, and I’ve got a couple of nice slow tap routines to do so I’ll be fine.
What’s been your career highlight?
Hot Shoe. It was homemade, we created it ourselves and it holds a very special place. Before Hot Shoe I guess one of the biggest turning points was A Chorus Line. It was the show that put me on the map as a performer in Australia. Mostly they’ve been dance shows, and obviously, after A Chorus Line, I’ve worked in the theatre and done lots of musicals. The next big thing for me was the Olympics and moving into that forum and doing the Sydney Olympics, the Vancouver Winter Olympics and The Asian Games.
So what’s your key to being successful in the entertainment industry and achieving that longevity?
Just getting up and doing it every morning. Not giving up!
Hot Shoe Shuffle has just finished playing at Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre, before opening at the Lyric Theatre Sydney from 6th July and Her Majesty’s Theatre Melbourne from 10th August. Go to www.hotshoeshuffle.com for more information.
Photo: David Atkins and Jaz Flowers in Hot Shoe Shuffle. Photos courtesy of MGM Publicity.
Posted on 26 March 2013.
Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney
By Nicole Saleh.
What began as an idea penned on a napkin 12 months ago, The Tap Pack came to life and premiered as part of the annual Dance Bites season at the Riverside Theatre, Western Sydney, in a fun, stylish and energy packed hour long show.
Created by seasoned Australian performers Jesse Rasmussen (Tap Dogs, Hot Shoe Shuffle, Happy Feet and So You Think You Can Dance), Thomas J Egan (Fame, Tap Dogs, The Boy From Oz) and Jordan Pollard (Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, The Addams Family), and inspired by the original ‘Rat Pack’ of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr, the Tap Pack’s group of five classy guys in their suits and ties took to the stage with the same sense of cool confidence as their predecessors.
With a loose storyline, narrated by performer Dion Bilios, we followed the journey of five very different characters performed by Rohan Browne, Kuki Tipoki and creators Jesse and Thomas, who worked through their own personal struggles, addictions, and strained friendships in their quest to get their show picked up by a Las Vegas producer.
Backed by The Tap Pack Bandits, a strong six piece band of drums, horns and keys, led by Musical Director Chris King, the five guys crooned classic big band numbers including ‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’ and ‘Lady is a Tramp’ but also added a contemporary twist with Cee Lo Green’s ‘Forget You’. Comedic humour was threaded throughout the show with some cliché jokes and slapstick gags that had the audience amused and laughing out loud.
The definite highlight of the show, as its title suggests, is the tap dancing which was fast, intricate, rhythmical and entertaining. Whether it was creating beats as background music to their dialogue, or the challenging routines using pool cue sticks instead of canes, all five performers did a fantastic job of delivering complex cross rhythms and showcasing the creativity of this art form.
In a strong solo performance, Thomas wowed the audience with his acapella tapping and the ease in which he delivered difficult tricks with his fast footwork. His rhythms were smooth and his turning combination had speed and clarity. Jesse Rasmussen also delivered a memorable solo paying homage to the tap legends who have gone before; Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire and Jimmy Slyde.
Overall, all five performers delivered charismatic performances and finished the show on a fun note, dressed in leopard print shirts for the big tap finale. This show has great potential and gave audiences a taste of what The Tap Pack is all about.
Posted on 30 June 2012.
The Official Show of the Australian Tap Dance Festival.
Australia’s best tap dancers fly in to Melbourne to perform in one jaw-dropping tap show for the Australian Tap Dance Festival. Australia’s Got Tap will feature performers from Tap Dogs, Happy Feet 2, Bootmen, Hot Shoe Shuffle, 42nd Street, Got to Dance UK, Australia’s Got Talent, Nigel Lythgoe’s Superstars of Dance and select Tap Festival participants.
Experience classic and famous routines, original choreography and live music.
Australia’s Got Tap
Friday 13th July 7.30pm (one show only).
Irving Theatre, 38 Huntingtower Rd, Armadale VIC.
Win a Double Pass to Australia’s Got Tap!
Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject: “WIN TICKETS” and tell us Why Your Love Tap Dancing.
Dance Informa’s Editors will pick the best responses to win.
* All valid entries must include your full name, postal address and date of birth.
Competition open until July 8.
Posted on 01 August 2010.
By Nicole Saleh.
Tap dancing is where it all began for the talented Adam Garcia. With his first big break on London’s West End performing in the acclaimed Australian musical Hot Shoe Shuffle, Adam has since gone on to achieve success not only on stage but also in film and television. Garcia showed off his hot dance moves in the movie Coyote Ugly, created the lead role of Fiyero in the hit musical Wicked, was a dance teacher in the drama Britannia High, and most recently appeared alongside Kimberly Wyatt (former Pussycat Doll) and Ashley Banjo (Hip Hop crew Diversity) as a judge on UK’s popular television show Got To Dance.
Ready to return to his roots, Adam is hitting the West End stage but this time in Blundstone Boots, leading the cast of Tap Dogs.
In rehearsals on the eve of their upcoming UK and Australian tour, I got a behind-the-scenes preview of Adam in action. Not only does he bring his own charm and humour to the show, I was amazed at the footwork of this highly skilled tap technician. Intrigued to learn more, I caught up with Adam Garcia in between his busy rehearsal schedule.
How did you start Tap Dancing?
I started doing ballet from about the age of seven for no particular reason, other than my friend Morgan O’Neil asked me to come with him to his dance class. The class was a bit too far away and he left and I wanted to continue, so I went to my cousin’s dance school which was Dumbrell Academy (now Capital Dance). Glenn and Kerrie Dumbrell’s strong point was tap. I did ballet and jazz, and everyone did tap, so I started doing tap dancing.
Did you always want to be a dancer?
I didn’t ever think I’d be a career dancer. I simply did it because I enjoyed it as a hobby. When I was 15 or 16 I started getting jobs, but I still never thought that this would be a career, even when I went to London with Hot Shoe Shuffle.
Hot Shoe Shuffle was supposed to be a six month deferment from university and it turned into a year and a half. Then in London, I thought I probably wouldn’t get another job, I’d just backpack for a year and come back to Australia, but I ended up getting more work and so it sort of developed.
So do you think Aussie dancers need to move overseas for a career in dance?
Not necessarily. There are more opportunities over there, but equally there are good opportunities in Australia. Obviously the pool of jobs is much bigger in Europe or even America, but as the percentage of jobs increase, the percentage of people competing for them increases as well, so it’s never going to be easy. You have to be on top of your game!
Is it true that this is your first season of Tap Dogs?
It is! I’ve never done Tap Dogs, so I’m not officially a Tap Dog until it opens.
What is it like to be once again working with Dein Perry (Tap Dogs Creator/Choreographer) since working together in the musical Hot Shoe Shuffle and the film Bootmen?
I grew up with Dein and he was a mentor of mine. My first big experiences in my life away from home were with Dein. He was a real father figure to me and we’ve been very good friends ever since. It was kind of odd, as I didn’t know how we were going to operate again, but we just know how each other works and we found it really easy, so it’s a delight.
How did you get ready for this role in Tap Dogs?
I hadn’t been tap dancing a great deal, so I had an extra two weeks tapping in London before starting rehearsals in Sydney. You need fast feet for this show and I thought “Oh my, are my feet going to be ready at all?” But they seemed to have mostly come good.
I did a fair bit of fitness work when I was in Los Angeles – lots of sprint training and a bit of muscle work. I played football two or three times a week and one of those games was a 90 minute full field soccer match. You’re constantly sprinting and never stop, and so it’s kind of the equivalent to doing an 80 minute show. It’s certainly challenging, but I’m getting there.
How important do you think Tap Dogs is to championing the art form of Tap around the world?
I think it is incredibly important, and not because I’m intimately attached to the show. There aren’t tap shows of this nature that are still continuing today. There are ballet companies and contemporary companies and their expression and narrative is done through dance. Tap shows don’t exist like that. Savion Glover obviously has his shows, but then there’s 42nd Street and musicals where suddenly there is some tap dancing and then it ends. There is not a show that I have seen that is just a tap show, and that’s all it is. Tap Dogs is really the only one on an international scale. There’s no speaking, its music and tap for 80 minutes and that’s that!
The Tap Dogs trademark is the Blundstone Boots. Was there a need to adjust your tapping style for these shoes?
Actually in London when I was starting rehearsals I knew I needed to get some boots on because they are a lot heavier than tap shoes. I dug around in my cupboard and found the first boots we wore for the original Tap short for ABC TV (this short film launched what was to become the Tap Dogs and the concept of tapping in Blundstone boots). It takes a lot more deliberate dexterity to make the sounds. I had to remember how to use them, and it took about a week and a half to get really used to the boots.
What’s been a career highlight for you?
Definitely the Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony (Adam led over 1000 tap dancers performing to a global audience), and opening in the musical Saturday Night Fever in London (Adam played the lead role of Tony Manero). Even just opening in Hot Shoe Shuffle was kind of weird and crazy back in 1992. I had no idea about openings and I didn’t realise it was such a big deal. I even asked Dein if I could have it off as I had tickets to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert and they were only playing one gig. We had another 30 shows after that and I couldn’t see what the big deal was!
You’ve been a judge on the successful UK reality television show, Got To Dance. What qualities do you believe make a great dancer?
Obviously feet are pretty important, and musicality. Musicality is not only about keeping time and doing the choreography, but it’s feeling the music and where moves should be. I think dancers learn that music carries with it an inherent rhythm, tone, style and nuance and that’s why people have different styles. They hear the music differently or feel the dance moves in a different way. When people really explore and give into what they feel and express it through the music, it makes a good dancer and a very watchable dancer.
The ability to let go is very important. There was a 10 year old boy on the show who is autistic and literally the music moved him and that’s the only way I could describe it. He just stood there and the music went, and he just went. That was one of the most beautiful things in the show.
Do you see yourself as an actor or a dancer?
Even though I’ve got acting, dancing always reels me back and I realise “oh yeah, you’re a dancer – deal with it”. For all my protestation about being an actor, people recognise me as a dancer, so I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I love making movies, I like making TV, I love doing live theatre, I love doing musical theatre, I like doing dance shows and I like being a judge, so I’m just trying to do as much as I can.
What are your future plans after Tap Dogs?
A new season of Got to Dance (UK) starts at the end of the year so I’m excited about that. Chris Horsey (Tap Works Director) and I have been working on a show which we’re about half way through choreographing. He’s got his tap company up and running and we’ve got ambitions to complete the show and put it on stage finally, that’ll be nice!
Tap Dogs is now showing at the Novello Theatre London until 5th September 2010, and returns to Australia at the Capitol Theatre Sydney from 5th January 2011 for a limited 5 week season. For details visit www.tapdogs.co.uk
Photos: Ralf Brinkhoff