Tap Dogs has been a smash-hit musical for the last fifteen years, created by Australian dancer and choreographer Dein Perry. The show premiered in Sydney in 1995 and continues to dazzle audiences today. The show has played all over the world, including many successful engagements in Toronto. The current tour comes back to the city this week with two Canadian cast members in tow.
MacKenzie Greenwell has been dancing since the age of two and is enjoying his second tour with the Tap Dogs gang. He performed in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics and was a featured solo artist in West Coast Tap Dance Colletive’s 2010 Tap Day show. Prior to arriving in Toronto MacKenzie took a few moments to talk with BWW about the challenges that come with dancing in a dangerous and intense show like Tap Dogs, about what it’s like growing up aspiring to be a dancer and about whether artists should have a ‘back-up plan’:
Congratulations on bringing Tap Dogs back to Toronto! How’s it going so far?
Well we’re coming to the end of rehearsals and the show is coming together and looking really good. We’re all pretty sore but excited to get this journey started.
I would assume working on a show like this is one hell of a workout! Is that mostly because of the various obstacles and environments you dance within?
I think it’s a combination of being on ladders, metal and water but also the fact that there is no intermission in this show. The entire cast is pretty much dancing the whole show with only a couple of breaks – so you really have to have stamina to do our production.
You started dancing at the age of two, what has your progression been like so far?
I think I’ve had the same progression as most artists which is one in which you continue to grow and pursue your passion. I’m always looking to learn and I never want to feel like I’ve reached a plateau. I want to learn, grow and change. Because of that I make sure to keep rehearsing and honing my craft. As a young kid you start by learning basic steps and as you get older you get to take more responsibility for learning yourself. You find your own voice and define yourself as an artist.
Many young artists struggle with the pervasive notion of having a ‘back-up plan’. Do you think that a back-up plan is a hindrance to success or a necessity in today’s economy?
My personal opinion is that you can’t have a plan B. As soon as you start focusing on the plan B you usually end up getting trapped there. For me, I knew this was what I loved and I was going to make it happen no matter what. So while a back-up plan can be important, there’s never really a wrong time to go back and get one. But if art is what you love then you have to go after it because you never know what might happen.
Did you have one defining moment where everything paid off and you knew the sacrifices were worth it?
Definitely and I’m reminded of it all the time. It’s like a cycle, you’ll have your highs from working too hard and of course your lows as well. During the lows you just have to remember to keep working on yourself and know the highs will come again.
In recent years we’ve seen a decline in the art of tap dancing. Do you think a show like Tap Dogs can work to bring it back to a popular audience?
Definitely. I remember on the last tour we had so many kids coming to see the show and whenever I would see a boy come to the show excited it was inspiring. If we can reach out to even a few of those kids and make them want to do what we do that would be a huge success.
I remember being about ten years old and my Mom brought home a VHS of Tap Dogs and I was mesmerized. Here were these guys dancing in boots and in water and going up ladders and doing all kinds of crazy things. When I booked my first tour with the show I remember thinking back to my ten year old self with a bit of awe. For me along the path that I’m on now, seeing this show helped push me to get where I am.
You talk about dancing on ladders and in water and doing all kinds of crazy things – do you guys have a contingency plan in case something goes wrong mid-show?