Steel ideas from Newcastle

Steel ideas from Newcastle
A dance performance by Tap Dogs which is created by Dein Perry and inspired by the Australian's teenage years when he learnt how to tap dance in the garage behind his dance teacher's house in Newcastle, a steel town north of Sydney.

SINGAPORE - After 15 years, award-winning Australian tap dance show Tap Dogs will be coming back to Singapore this month for eight performances only.

The show, which debuted in 1995, is the brainchild of creator and choreographer Dein Perry.

Tap Dogs is set on a construction site in Newcastle, a city two hours' drive north of Sydney. A team of six dancers and two musicians put their skills together, performing in water, upside down or jumping through scaffolding.

The show premiered at the Sydney Theatre Festival, before achieving international acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival and London's Sadler's Wells Theatre.

Since then, it has toured the world, appearing in more than 330 cities and seen by more than 12 million people. It has also won more than 11 international awards, including an Obie Award in New York and a Pegasus Award at the Spoleto Festival in Italy.

In creating Tap Dogs, Perry drew from his experiences as an industrial machinist, and before that, as a young boy learning tap dancing in his neighbour's garage. He began tap dancing lessons when he was four and took three to four lessons a week until he was 16.

"It was something that I was used to doing and I enjoyed it because all my friends were doing it as well," says the 51-year-old Australian.

After leaving Newcastle when he was 20 for Sydney to pursue his dance career, he worked in musical theatre for about 10 years until he got his big break when he was cast in the hit musical 42nd Street.

In 1991, he was awarded a grant to form the Tap Brothers, an early incarnation of Tap Dogs.

He also co-choreographed and starred in Hot Shoe Shuffle and the Australian dance musical earned Perry his first Olivier Award in 1995. In 1994, he conceived and choreographed Tap Dogs, and received his second Olivier Award in 1996 for the show.

Dancing not only kick started Perry's illustrious career, but also led him to meet his wife, Lisa Perry, when they were on the theatre show Rasputin.

They have three children - Reid, 16, and 12-year-old twin daughters Bella and Georgia.

While Tap Dogs has been around for 20 years, Perry says the show has been revamped with new elements, such as introducing female musicians to the once all-male cast.

"The show is a lot funnier and the music's changed over that period of time as well," he says. "It's the same set, it's the same feel and the same tap dance, but the show is so much slicker now."

1 Did you always know you wanted to pursue a career in dance?

I think about halfway through my apprenticeship as a fitter and turner, when I was about 18, I thought I want to dance because I wasn't enjoying the apprenticeship. And I thought the only other thing I was good at was dancing.

When I finished my apprenticeship when I was 20, I left Newcastle for Sydney. I had no money and just did the best I could to pursue my career in dancing. I worked in a lot of different cabaret shows and musicals. I finally got a role in 42nd Street after 10 years, and with that I got a bit of a name.

People started to know who I was a little bit more and, from there, I got an opportunity to choreograph Hot Shoe Shuffle. That won a lot of choreographic awards in Australia and London. I was already working on the concept of Tap Dogs and was offered money to develop it into a show.

2 How did Newcastle give you inspiration for Tap Dogs?

Newcastle was a steel-making town. It's a strange thing because Newcastle has lovely, beautiful beaches. But straight off in the harbour of Newcastle, there were massive steelworks and engineering plants.

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