Rhythmic Circus tap show making Canadian debut in P.A.

Matt Gardner
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A travelling dance revue that has performed around the world to critical acclaim sees its Canadian premiere early next month in Prince Albert.

Billed as “a sensational blend of theatre, music and dancing,” the Canadian premiere of Rhythmic Circus tap show Feet Don’t Fail Me Now will take place on Tuesday, April 1 at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.

Billed as a high-energy blend of theatre, music and dance, Feet Don’t Fail Me Now showcases the Minneapolis-based performance troupe Rhythmic Circus, which consists of four-award winning dancers, a human beatbox and versatile six-piece band.

Dancer Nick Bowman said he and his fellow performers are “stoked” for their first show in The Great White North, which takes place on Tuesday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.

“It seems silly being from Minnesota -- we’re so close,” Bowman said. “We go all over the world … The fact that we’ve never been (to Canada) … for us it just feels like a long time coming.

“We’re just so excited to take this show that we’re so passionate about, we’ve been developing for the last five years and have the opportunity to share it with the people there.”

“People tell us all the time, ‘You’ve got to go to Canada, you’ve got to go to Canada,’” fellow dancer Ricci Milan added.

“In fact, we were at Edinburgh years ago, there was one lady who was adamant. She was yelling at us after the show, ‘You have to come! My daughter wants to see you!’ So it’s fun to finally get to go up there.”

The concept of Feet Don’t Fail Me Now revolves around the 11 onstage performers experiencing or expressing their favourite kinds of music through their instruments (with tap dancing serving as one of the instruments). The music encompasses genres from funk to blues and rock to salsa.

Respectively the “white dancer” and “green dancer” in terms of the colourful circus outfits they wear at the end of each show, Milan and Bowman were also the driving force behind the formation of the Rhythmic Circus.

As far back as their high school days, the pair had discussed creating their own project together.

With the passage of time, they became increasingly determined to follow through.

“I guess we got to an age where it was like, ‘We better do something or we’re not going to end up doing anything,’” Milan recalled.

Looking around, they began recruiting other musicians and entertainers they knew from their social circle.

One of the inspirations for Feet Don’t Fail Me Now was a Minneapolis apartment building they lived in that served as a crash pad for area dancers, musicians and artists and helped inform the feel of the show.

“The concept came from the style of dance we had wanted to do and the energy we wanted to share with the world,” Milan said. “It was like the energy was victory, the energy was joy, the energy was fire, youth, ambition, dreams … The stuff that we kind of all hope to become.”

“We wanted to share that energy through our people in our lives and the talent we had and the youth we had,” he added.

People tell us all the time, ‘You’ve got to go to Canada, you’ve got to go to Canada' ... It’s fun to finally get to go up there. Ricci Milan

“That’s what we’re trying to do -- pushing the train, baby.”

Each performer onstage gets their moment to shine with solos and improvisational routines that help illustrate their individual artistic sensibilities.

While Milan’s high-energy dance style comes across in the more rock and funk-oriented numbers, Bowman’s tends to be more relaxed.

Meanwhile, “blue dancer” Kaleena Miller and “red dancer” Galen Higgens bring their own approaches to the stage.

“Kaleena is a little more smooth, a little more traditional hoofer style … a little more jazz feel,” Milan said.

For his part, Higgens is known for an avid pop sensibility and incorporating flashy moves such as the Moonwalk.

“We refer to him as ‘The Kid,’” Bowman said. “He’s about 10 years younger than the rest of us and has just this exuberant amount of energy when he’s onstage. Think Michael Jackson meets tap dancing.”

In addition to the band members who play traditional instruments, a vital element of the Rhythmic Circus sound is Heatbox, aka Aaron Heaton, who serves as human beatbox.

“My role in the show is to be a professional ham and to show off some looping and beatboxing skills,” Heatbox said.

“Also I battle the tap dancers at this one point,” he added. “It’s pretty sweet … We go kind of Mortal Kombat … tap versus beatboxer ninja battle.”

Ticketholders for Feet Don’t Fail Me Now also have access to a tap dancing master class prior to the show on Tuesday.

Taught by Bowman, the master class is targeted at an intermediate skill set (at least one year of tap dancing experience) and takes place from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Margo Fournier Centre.

“Our mission with those master classes is to kind of give community members an up-close … look at our philosophy behind tap dancing as far as … the rhythm section of the song that you’re hearing,” Bowman said.

“It’s a very musical thing to us. But then also give them a kind of an inside look at some of the techniques we use, some of the things that we think about when we’re tap dancing and then doing all of that with a really fun atmosphere, so that … it’s just a deeper connection to tap dancing before they see the show.”

Tickets to Feet Don’t Fail Me Now, which include a seat at the tap dancing master class, cost $58.80 and are available at the box office or online.

Individuals who wish to attend the tap dancing master class only may also buy $25 tickets for the lesson by calling the box office at 306-765-1270.

Organizations: Margo Fournier Centre

Geographic location: Canada, The Great White North, Minnesota Edinburgh Minneapolis

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