Created by Olivier Award-winning choreographer Dein Perry, designer and director Nigel Triffitt and composer Andrew Wilkie, “Tap Dogs” premiered in Australia and is performed on a set made to look like a construction site. The show is a dramatic departure from traditional tap dancing. "Tap Dogs" comes to Sangamon Auditorium on Sunday.
Nathan Sheens is one old (Tap) Dog.
Not that he’s old in terms of his chronological age. But Sheens, 35, was one of the original cast members for “Tap Dogs,” the Australian tap dance show that debuted in 1995. He left the show in the late 1990s, but has returned and is one of two original members.
And even though he has significant experience with “Tap Dogs,” Sheens says the show is “always fresh; it’s always new.
“It’s why we keep the show fresh, with our solos and things like that,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “We are able to invent ourselves, and that sort of keeps us on our toes. We can rework our solos a little bit if we like, so that always keeps it fresh and new for us.”
“Tap Dogs” comes to Sangamon Auditorium on Sunday.
Created by Olivier Award-winning choreographer Dein Perry, designer and director Nigel Triffitt and composer Andrew Wilkie, “Tap Dogs” premiered in Australia and is performed on a set made to look like a construction site. The show has won 11 international awards and has been performed both off-Broadway (earning a Special Citation at the 1997 Obie Awards) and on London’s West End.
Over the years, Sheens has graduated from being merely a cast member to a teacher. The show has a “new kid” on board, 18-year-old Richie Miller. Sheens said Miller is quite talented and has a particular style.
“He is young and bright. He is one of the new boys. And being an older dog, I sort of get to train him up and give him a hand with the show as well,” Sheens said.
Working with Miller in a mentoring role has gone well so far, Sheens said, especially because Miller is a young dog who can learn new tricks.
“He is definitely working his butt off,” Sheens said. “But it’s a really good thing in that someone like me who has the experience surrounding him, as well as Sheldon Perry ... who has been with the show just as long as I have been. We have these young guys that come in, and they have got the older guys with the experience surrounding them, and they really appreciate that.”
Sheens said seeing “Tap Dogs” continue to grow and travel the world — and even earn a slot at the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 — shows the beauty of tap dance.
“Tap dance continues to evolve worldwide. Not just with this show. It continues to evolve; it is unlimited,” he said. “The types of rhythms and the types of beats ... it’s mathematical almost, so you can feel it. With the type of creativity, you can do it. And that’s the beauty of tap dance. And you can even say tap dance is ahead of its time.”
“Tap Dogs” was part of the dance form’s evolution. Performers wear tap boots instead of tap shoes, and blue-collar attire. Dancers perform in an industrial setting, stripping away all the “glitz and glamour.”
“It’s a bunch of guys working on a construction site rather than tap dancing around a beautifully lit set. It’s very raw; we are just wearing jeans and T-shirts. We are not out there in suits and top hats and canes and all that sort of stuff,” Sheens said. “So it’s a very raw show ... it’s aimed towards the common person who understands what hard work is all about.
“And tap dancing is hard work.”
4 p.m. Sunday
Sangamon Auditorium, at the University of Illinois Springfield
$51/$46/$41, available at the Sangamon Auditorium ticket office, by phone at (217) 206-6160 or online.