It’s treat night tonight and I’m off to see Tap Dogs. As you may know I’m a proud dog owner and can’t imagine life without Tiffy the Jack Russell-cross, but it’s not pet care that’s got me excited. Although my goodness I would love to pat and make friends with one of these doggies.
You see Tap Dogs are a group of male dancers who perform for eighty minutes straight on an industrial set with tap-adapted workmen’s boots. They’re muscular, athletic and oh yes, dressed in shorts and singlets! (Let’s just pause here for a spot of cultural interpretation. North American readers, a singlet is what Australians call the item you know as a ‘wife beater’, a truly horrid term. British readers, you call these things ‘vests’. Locally we also call them ‘chesty bonds’ named after an iconic ad for a particular brand of underwear. I think you’ve now all got the picture I’m painting!)
As far as plots go there’s not much, but for once I’m not complaining about contemporary dance and its lack of story-telling. Six blokes turn up at a building site for a day’s work. That’s it really. But there are power tools, dancers running up scaffolding, larking about, stomping through water and lots and lots of boot thumping that makes your blood pound in time.
It’s been a few years since I last saw them, and then it was twice in one month, the first time in Canberra and the next at a matinee when I was visiting a friend in Melbourne. By the matinee show I’d already scoped out my favourite dancer, they were all wearing coloured singlets, like a version of the Wiggles for grown up girls (remember that comparison it is important later).
My favourite was the dancer in the red shirt, the colour just really seemed to set off his biceps (I’ve long been an admirer of strong arms, I think it’s a left over from having admired drummers in bands when I was growing up. Hello Roger Taylor from Duran Duran!)
The second performance was just as good as the first I’d seen weeks earlier, and Red Tap Dog once again caught my eye. This time I’d remembered to bring theatre glasses to help me ‘appreciate’ his performance even more.
After the show my friend and I found ourselves outside the stage door, where little kids were already lining up in the hope of an autograph. That’s the great thing about Tap Dogs, it breaks down the stereotypes around male dancers and encourages young boys to don tap shoes for themselves.
We kept walking, but I kept looking back over my shoulder just in case the dancers put in an appearance. The way my friend tells it, one minute I was just behind her, but when she asked me a question there was no answer. Looking back over her shoulder all she saw was me sprinting back across the road, heedless of oncoming traffic, to the stage door where Red Tap Dog had just appeared.
Stopping a little way away from the door, I recovered my breath and assumed a more nonchalant stride to take me to the door. There, I discreetly elbowed a couple of kids out of the way (What? They’ve got YEARS ahead of them to meet their dance idols), I positioned myself front and centre before RTD.
Smiling brightly I started chatting, saying how much I’d enjoyed the performance. At that moment my friend caught up with me, pointing out “You’re her favourite Tap Dog.”
For a moment I wished I had a pair of tap boots to tread on her foot, but I recovered with aplomb, smiling even more brightly and saying “It’s like the Wiggles, everyone has a favourite colour so you just tend to focus on who’s wearing that one.”
“And you’re favourite is red,” asked RTD quizzically. I affirmed my deep abiding love of all things rouge hued and smiling even more broadly (my facial muscles were getting quite a work out), asked for an autograph.
And that is how I came to acquire the only known autograph in the world signed Nigel ‘Red’ Long.
Yes I am indeed a proud, proud dog lover…