Since Stomp exploded onto the global entertainment scene with its maverick and alluring mixture of dance and percussion in the early 1990s, all sorts of weird and wonderful and consummately attractive troupes have taken up the choreographed percussion mantle and run with it all over the show.
The French-based Tap Factory will bring its international cast of multi-talented artists to Israel for five shows between July 23 and 27 in Tel Aviv, Binyamina, Haifa, Rishon Lezion and Beersheba to show us just how far it has taken the visualsonic entertainment fusion.
Tap Factory, created by 44-yearold Vincent Pausanias, has been doing the rounds of the world in recent years, appearing across Europe and South America to capacity audiences. The show incorporates a colorful cross-section of genres and skills, from dance and percussion to theater and acrobatics, all laced with a heaping helping of comedy.
The eight-person cast includes artists from France, Switzerland, Holland, Cuba and the Ivory Coast, featuring some of the world’s leading tap dancers. The sonic backdrop for the choreographed visual entertainment is provided by musicians churning out a barrage of percussion beats produced on drum sets and all manner of objects, from garbage cans to oil drums and even the stage floor.
The dancers’ movement takes in hip hop, acrobatics and street dance, performed against stark urbanesque scenery, with all manner of props thrown in to enhance the dance offerings.
As the name of the show suggests, the artistic and visual backbone of the venture is the ageold discipline of tap dancing. That is where Pausanias’s strength lies.
“I have been dancing and performing for 18 years in a lot of different kinds of shows, including musicals,” he explains. “I performed at the Paris Opera and have toured around the world a lot with tap dance shows.”
After a while, Pausanias began to combine performing with devising performances.
“Eight years ago I began to choreograph shows. I did about 15 shows in America and Portugal and other places, all kinds of shows. And then I decided to create my own show based around tap dance. That’s how the Tap Factory started,” he says.
But the troupe is about more than the titular dance form.
“I have worked with all kinds of artists, not just tap dancers, and I didn’t want it to only be about tap dance,” continues Pausanias. “Just to have tap dancing could become quite boring. I love to work with acrobats and musicians, and I wanted to mix all the disciplines.”
It was tap dancing that first fired the Frenchman’s childhood imagination.
“I used to love watching people like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. I saw all their movies,” he recalls. “But at the same time, I love the newer generations of tap dancers, such as [American dancer] Savion Glover and before him, [late American dancer] Gregory Hines. I wanted to renew the genre of tap dance with my show.”
While feeding off the greats of the past, Pausanias was also keen to present something contemporary, with energies and artistic endeavor that come from the here and now. That comes through in the visual presentation and the routines the cast members perform but also in the music that underscores the dance.
“We have a radio on the stage, and we hear swing music, and that is a tribute to old tap dance. We have lots of rhythmic sounds in the rest of the show. For example, I play a wash tub and a really big 200-liter barrel. You get a really big sound from that,” he says.
However, the show is first and foremost about dance, and the rhythmic support is derived from the central visual element.
“Everything comes from the performers,” notes Pausanias. “It’s not like there’s an orchestra at the back. All the eight performers on the stage are very very strong in their own disciplines. We have a world champion of tap dance, we have major acrobats and great drummers. Everyone plays percussions, and everyone dances.”
While this may all sound very professional and slick, Pausanias and his troupe members never forget that ultimately it is about conveying the feel-good factor as clearly as possible.
“There is a lot of comedy in the show,” says the artistic director. “The main idea of the show is to be really funny. One of my passions is Charlie Chaplin, and this show is really Chaplinesque.” There is also a single speaking spot in the show, although the communication form is anything but verbal.
“The guy speaks in a sort of African language, which is very rhythmic but no one can understand it,” Pausanias explains. “But somehow everyone does understand what he says. People laugh when he speaks, even though they don’t understand a word. That is great fun.”
The cultural spread also enhances the end result.
“We have people from different countries in the show, and I think it is very interesting to fuse all the cultural things from Cuba, the Ivory Coast and Switzerland,”says Pausanias, adding that while the show is a well-orchestrated affair, there are also some looser elements to the program. “I try to keep some improvisation in the show because I think it gives some freshness to the show. You perform every night, and it is very tight, but I think it is important to have some improvisation in it, too. The artists are so good at what they do, that they are able to do that. They can play around with the performance a bit.”
That also helps to keep the creator on his toes.
“I am often surprised by some little thing one of the performers will introduce to the show, especially when it’s funny,” laughs Pausanias. “The show is still a work in progress. It keeps growing all the time.”
For tickets and more information:
Binyamina: *9080; www.zappa-club.co.il
Tel Aviv: (03) 692-7777; www.israel-opera.co.il
Rishon Lezion: (03) 948-8665; www.hakartis.co.il
Beersheba: (08) 626-6400 ext. 1; www.mishkan7.co.il