If you thought Tap Dance was just Old (Top) Hat then think again. This is the mission of Old Kent Road - to bring tap dance up to date, and prove that it fits into today's dance scene just fine. They do this with energy and style, and great senses of both humour and rhythm.
A line-up of six dancers, a jazz band of four, live on stage, and three lengths of hard flooring were all we needed. For just under an hour there wasn't a single step out of sync. The room was so small and the audience so close to the front of the stage area that it was very hard to see the dancers' feet, even with raked seating. But they might well have been a blur anyway, and you got the effect from the noise.
As well as six dancers in perfect time together we had pitched battles, between dancers or between the dancers and the drummer. These were witty conversations, the dance equivalent of banter. But there was also barefoot tap, clapped rhythms, and soulful tap, choreographed for particular songs. I haven't ever seen tap meant to mean something before.
The troupe consisted of two male and four female dancers, among them Avalon Rathgeb, the Artistic Director of Old Kent Road. Her feet worked harder than anyone's and she kept her beady eye on the others as well as on the audience. Beyond the costume colours there was no attempt to make all the dancers look uniform - they were not a cloned chorus-line. They gave the impression that celebrating diversity, as dancers and people, was a vital part of the creative energy.
With jazzy tunes, short pieces, thunderous applause, a sense of spontaneity, addictive rhythms, and buckets of sweat, the performance was over too soon. This sort of tap has the feisty attitude of street dance, and the integrity of professional athletes. I don't think I was the only one who could have watched them all day.