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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Hooked on Tap heats up with ‘Hot Stuff’

Published: February 5, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

Lions attack: In “The Hunt,” lions encircle their prospective dinner.<br /><i>ILLUSTRATION BY Ariel Wittenberg/The Hoot</i>Hooked on Tap’s annual show “Hot Stuff” proved that tap-dancing can be fun, creative and—above all—hot.

First thing’s first, I know absolutely nothing about tap-dancing. I just have this dim memory of attending Miss Bonnie Haye’s dance school when I was seven, wearing a god-awful blue tutu and attempting to execute a step-ball-change. In no way has that brief interlude prepared me to comment on Hooked on Tap’s technical abilities, but, as a person who loves a good performance, I can tell you that I was immensely entertained.

“Hot Stuff” started off the evening with a high-energy, playful routine, which set the tone for the rest of the show. The entire group gathered on stage in what was, at first, simply a mass of dancers. However, the Hooked on Tap performers deftly managed to make use of the small space, and the crowd diverged into distinct groups, allowing each to showoff their skills. It could have been a confused mess, but it wasn’t.

The dance-steps were fun, and the choreography combined flirtatious moves with a comedic sensibility. The opening number let the audience become engaged with the performance and clued them in on the fact that they were in for a treat.

After the opening number came the most creative choreography of the night, combining theatrics with difficult tapping. The lights dimmed and two dancers took the stage in silhouette. One stood still in the dark while the other approached timidly and unaware. Suddenly the watching dancer leapt forward with a growl (a comical “rawr!”) and chased her prey off the stage.

What followed was a predator versus prey face-off, in which a pack of “lions” displayed strength and aggression, while a herd of “zebras” danced with shaking knees and intermittent squeaks. The predators surrounded their prey, broke up the herd and stalked their victims. Yet, in keeping with the light tone established by the first routine, the zebras were able to escape their fates as entrees by playing dead.

However, Alana Heumann, who choreographed the dance, stated in an e-mail that the routine was not meant to be comedic. “I did not intend for it to be a funny dance but during the show everyone was laughing and then people told me that they thought it was hysterical.”

Another stand-out performance appeared in the second act, set to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation.” Interestingly enough, this routine also played with the idea of pack mentalities. A rebel (designated by her leather jacket and tough attitude) confronted the leader of a posse of school-girls and a fight for control over the group commenced.

Similar to how the lions encircled their prey, the posse surrounded their leader and her challenger as they fought. Eventually, the crowd of girls mimicked the rebel’s dance moves and orchestrated an outfit change to copy her style. The renounced leader watched in dismay, but then inevitably joined in.

Not only did clever choreography make an impression, but other performances, including some by Tufts and BU tap ensembles, displayed the versatility of tap-dancing. The variety of musical genres used was impressive, with routines set to rock, jazz, pop and diva anthems. Notably, the Tufts Tap Ensemble had a performance set to the Presidents of the United States of America’s “Feather Pluck’n,” showing that tap-dancing can be rock-and-roll cool. As for the dances themselves, they varied from the laid-back “Every Other Time” routine to the more frenzied “This Joint” set. BU on Tap and Hooked On Tap alumni also contributed memorable performances.

As a newcomer to Brandeis’ tap-dancing scene, I was impressed and surprised and left the show looking forward to Hooked on Tap’s future offerings.