image

Hong Kong Arts Festival 2017

Review: ETM: Double Down displays extraordinary speed, accuracy and stamina but lacks joy

For all its brilliance, this otherwise spectacular show lacks the sheer infectious fun that is at the heart of tap as a dance form

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 4:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 4:22pm

Tap dance production ETM: Double Down by New York based Dorrance Dance will come as a surprise to anyone expecting a show in the tradition of Fred Astaire or the Nicholas Brothers. When most people think of tap, they’re thinking of the genre known as Broadway or show tap seen in musicals, where it’s combined with singing and with other types of dance. Here the genre is rhythm tap, which focuses on syncopation and uses the sound of the dancers’ feet to create a form of music.

Led by award-winning dancer/choreographer Michelle Dorrance, the company aims to push the boundaries of tap, notably through new technology developed by Dorrance’s long-time collaborator Nicholas Van Young which amplifies the sound of the dancers’ steps.

The first half is focused entirely on rhythm as the dancers, aided by Van Young’s inventive effects, create a symphony of percussion using only their feet. The second half is more varied, with the introduction of melodic music (beautifully sung by Aaron Marcellus) and passages that express more emotion, notably a lyrical duet for two men.

The idea of exploring new areas for the dance form is creditable but not that successful. In its pure form, as here, tap is inherently limited in what it can do – a wider range of vocabulary and greater emphasis on upper body movement are needed to expand its possibilities.

The production is cleverly conceived, technically ingenious and superbly performed.

The dancers display extraordinary speed, accuracy and stamina – Dorrance in particular is simply spectacular.

Yet for all its brilliance, the show lacks the joyous quality – the sheer infectious sense of fun – intrinsically associated with tap as a dance form.

ETM: Double Down, Dorrance Dance, Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Reviewed: February 24