Strathmore hosts high-octane tapping

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

Here's an interesting concept for a stage production: eight dancers, one musician and a construction site. The show is called "Tap Dogs," and it's selling out houses throughout the country.

The Dogs, as they are called by the show's creator, Dein Perry, work their feet -- and bodies -- armed with steel cleats affixed to their work boots in a high-energy show that's part rock 'n' roll, part tap. It's presented Saturday in two performances at Strathmore.

More than a dance revue, "Tap Dogs" has a loose story line built around the true-life experiences of choreographer Perry, who worked as an industrial machinist in the steel town of Newcastle, Australia. As a kid, he learned to tap-dance and dreamed of breaking into show business. Finally leaving the factory for a shot at the big time in Sydney, he was cast in a production of "42nd Street."

When the show closed, Perry decided to build a production around the day-to-day industrial experiences he shared with his Newcastle tap-dancing mates. "Tap Dogs" was a sellout in Sydney and quickly became an international hit, touring continuously with as many as four companies in more than 330 cities across six continents.

Onstage
'Tap Dogs'
Where: The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
When: 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday
Info: $25 to $52; 301-581-5200; strathmore.org

"The show is set on a construction site, and we build the entire set on stage," said cast member Matt Saffron. "We move forward, we go up and down ramps, up and down ladders and we build scaffolding. So pretty much everything you see onstage we are building during the whole 90-minute show."

And dancing while they build! High energy and physicality are the hallmark of the production, and Saffron said he and his fellow tappers take pretty good care of themselves offstage.

Onstage, they are characters, with lives, attitudes and names like the Enforcer, the hard-as-nails foreman of the group, and Rat, the prankster.

Saffron, who has been doing the show in the United States for seven years, is looking forward to the production's six-week tour in South Africa in February. Since its premiere, Tap Dogs has been seen by more than 11 million people.

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