Jacob Interviews…..Tap Dogs’ Anthony Russo

Tap Dogs cast

“Tap Dogs” will performing eight shows at the Kauffman Center of the Performing Arts Center from November 13 to 18. (Photo property of Tap Dogs)

By: Jacob Elyachar

The 2012-13 Kansas City Theater League season kicks off this week with the international theatrical sensation: Tap Dogs. 

Known for combining the best in theatre, dance and rock, Tap Dogs has been entertaining millions of people around the world with their astonishing footwork and amazing choreography which they will be showcasing at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts from November 13-18, 2012.

I recently had the chance to catch-up with the show’s lead: Anthony Russo and we talked about how he got interested in working with the show, the show’s choreography and his favorite parts about touring.

Jacob Elyachar: How did you get interested in tap?

Anthony Russo: I grew up in St. Charles, Missouri and my family runs a dance studio in town called the Performing Arts Centre.  Naturally, with my family being there all the time, the studio was my babysitter and I got started in dance when I was two-years-old.    As far as my interest in tap, I was interested in drums and percussion, so naturally out of all the dance styles that were offered, I chose tap because it is a free art form and it does not have any specifics about it such as ballet and it is your own music.

JE: How did you get interested in working with Tap Dogs?

AR: I saw Tap Dogs perform in St. Louis when I was 13-years-old and instantly I was drawn into the show.  What drew me in was seeing six guys who were rough, tough and dancing like guys. There weren’t any fancy costumes and there wasn’t a whole lot of glitz to it but seeing guys able to dance like guys and it looked like there was a bunch of friends onstage doing the show.

My mother, being in the arts scene in St. Louis, had a friend in the theater where Tap Dogs performed.  So, I got to go backstage and met a couple of the guys and I also stumbled upon a private one-on-one audition that took place after the show.   I was watching a guy learning a combination from the show.  I started picking up the steps and tap dancing in the doorway while watching the guy learn the combination.

Out of nowhere, I hear this Australian accent saying (speaking in Australian accent) “Yeah mate! You got it!”  Then, I turn around and it was the lead dancer.  He saw me learning the routine.  He stated:“Come back when you finish high school and you’ve got yourself a job.”

I sought out some of the guys that I met that night and I found them teaching at dance conventions.   I told them that I was interested in submitting a video and was trying to find an audition that I could get into.   After being very persistent, they arranged to record me on video and they submitted it to the creator of Tap Dogs: Dein Perry.

I heard back from them three days before I started my senior year of high school and they told that I was going to be a part of Tap Dogs’ sixth national tour and I have been doing this show on-and-off for the last 11 years.

JE: How long does it take a dancer to learn the show’s choreography?

AR: Everyone is a little bit different with the learning process but usually we set aside two weeks before they put someone on the stage.  Before a tour starts, we usually do two rehearsal periods where the guys come in and we start learning all of the routines.

I got hired a little late in the rehearsal process for that particular tour (the sixth national tour) and after 10 days of rehearsal, I was onstage with the cast.  (JE: That quick?) Yes, that quick.  We were in tap shoes for eight hours a day while we were rehearsing the show.

JE: What are some of your favorite parts about touring?

AR: I have been around the world and back with this show and performed in every U.S. state except for Alaska performing with Tap Dogs.   These are opportunities that I would not have necessarily had if I did not tour with the show.   My absolute favorite part of touring is being in these rock star coaches that we travel on to every city.   Ice Cube, the Black Keys and Incubus have used some of the buses that we travel on while on tour.

JE: Why should people come and see Tap Dogs?

AR: The show does not have any language barriers and it is one of those shows that is for the whole family and for all ages and demographics.   We see reluctant husbands and fathers that were dragged to the theatre tap dance in the lobby and enjoying the show more than anybody else because it is such a surprise to them.  Also, the fact that it survived for 17 years and has been shown in 75 countries around the world is a feet for this kind of production.

JE: If you had the opportunity to speak to aspiring tap dancers that want to be a part of Tap Dogs, what would your advice be to them?

AR: As far as training goes, I feel like all the training I had still did not prepare me for this gig.  You can all the technique in the world but there is a certain element of power and precision that you need to have in order to get considered for this job.   We have seen people get hired for the show and three months later, they are completely different dancers after performing the show.    There is a level of stamina that you must have to get through the 90-minute performance and there is no intermission.  I have done the show on-and-off for 11 years and endurance and stamina are key elements to be a dancer on this show.

For more information about Tap Dogs, visit the show’s website: http://www.tapdogs.com/

To learn about the Theater League of Kansas City, click here: http://theaterleague.com/kansascity/

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