Right from the get-go, On Tap’s Friday night performance brought energy to Wilson Hall with an opening number set to Elvis’s “Hound Dog” that featured the full company. With bright smiles and matching red scarves, the group of 14 looked upbeat, cohesive and confident. However, while the group used crisp arm movements and tap steps that felt classic, they also proved that tap can and will evolve with the times.
The “decades” theme for the show has been a favorite of the dancers in the senior class. “It seemed right to do it for this spring for their final show,” On Tap Co-President Ali DePaolo ’23 explained in an email to The Campus. All of the dances in the show were choreographed by students, and as the music moved from the 1950s to the present, a variety of modern-feeling dance moves were added alongside tap classics in a way that felt seamless, fresh and, most importantly, fun.
Even in more traditional tap numbers like “Shim Sham,” there were elements of surprise. A blackout in the middle of the song gave way to a more fast-paced second half of dancing.
Alongside choreography, lighting was also used to great effect to enhance the performance. In “I’m Still Standing,” there were dazzling transitions between different colors of lights. Alongside a shift in the choreography from a straight line of dancers to a rotating circle, the dancers continued to build energy and excite the audience while staying perfectly on beat. Three staggered waves of dancers executing choreography and arm movements created a cascade effect that was visually pleasing and also used to great effect in choreography for several other dances.
As the music got more modern, the choreography became increasingly creative and less stereotypically “tap.” A tap dance to Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills”? It might not seem like the most obvious choice — but yep, it happened. The dance featured some hip-hop elements in keeping with the ’90s decade, including a full-body swerve and roll in between tap steps that had the audience cheering wildly. “It’s fun to see how everyone incorporates their individual personalities and dance styles into their choreographed pieces,” Rasika Iyer ’23 said.
Applause and reactions to each dance got louder with each song as more and more audience members recognized the music as it became more modern. Audience members sang along to classic pop songs like “Toxic,” and waved glow sticks during blackouts between numbers where transition music played. The tap workshop midway through the show — a beloved On Tap tradition — was high energy and got the audience up on their feet and laughing. Dancers gave a quick tutorial on how to do a “wing,” an iconic tap move that involves a dizzying combination of brushes, spanks and taps on both legs at once, with a sweeping arm as well. As the audience attempted the move, it added a new appreciation for the performance. Dancers made the choreography look effortless, but tapping is a lot harder than it looks. While the audience may hear a cohesive rhythm, until trying it themselves, they might not realize how many subtle differences there are between each movement – taps, flaps, spanks and more, all in incredibly rapid succession.
“Fergalicious,” one of the largest non-company numbers in the show with eight dancers, got the audience cheering loudly. All of the dancers wore matching red skirts which caught the light with each step.
One of the other highlights of the show outside of the stellar company numbers was a duet by co-presidents Matt Fliegauf ’22 and Depaolo to “Nothing from Nothing.” Both dancers maintained a stellar stage presence. Their smiles felt genuine and relaxed as they busted out incredibly intricate, fast-paced footwork. During brief solo moments each had, it felt as if the other dancer was cheering them on and supporting them onstage.
As the oldest student-run dance troupe on campus, On Tap is a well-oiled machine, but every semester, the group also still manages to bring something different and new to each performance. Bringing tap through the decades with such joy energized the audience and made tap dance feel fresh and relevant.
“One of my favorite things about On Tap is that we all come from a variety of dance backgrounds,” Iyer said. “Some members are avid dancers involved in other dance groups on campus, some members learned tap from being involved in musical theatre, and some members haven't tapped since elementary school but have been able to rekindle their love for tap dancing by joining On Tap.”
Olivia Mueller '24 is an Arts and Culture Editor.
Mueller intends to major in International Politics and Economics. Outside of the Campus, she is involved in the college choir, an avid trail runner and hiker, and a member of the Middlebury Mischords. Off campus, she can often be found exploring local coffee shops.