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#MNFringeReviews: Buckets and Tap Shoes

I have a confession to make: I am somewhat of a Minnesota Fringe poseur.

Two years ago, I volunteered for the fringe and I got to see, I think, like 6 shows or so. Every other year I see maybe 3 or 4 if I’m lucky. I’m always touting the importance of supporting the arts through volunteerism and patronage. And yet, when I find myself in the throngs of die-hard Fringers, sporting their Ultra passes, on their 3rd, 4th, or 5th show of the DAY, I can’t help but feel like I’m one of those kids who is like, “Yeah, I’m TOTALLY into Macklemore/Mumford and Sons/insert pseudo indie #upandcoming popular artist” who can only hum the lines to one song.

So, it was with that mindset of feeling somewhat out of place that I set out on Saturday for my first show of the 2013 Fringe season: Buckets and Tap Shoes. Luckily, the show itself served to melt my insecurities almost immediately with it’s quirky, refreshing, and totally unpretentious performances.

Buckets and Tap Shoes, in my estimation, is a Fringe mainstay. I know  that the performances that get to be part of the Fringe is decided by random drawing, but B&TS is a name that always seems to be in the mix. What’s more, their really unique blend of showmanship, dance, music, and audience participation always seems to turn out solid showings at the Fringe. Excerpts from DREAMS was not an exception.

The show began with what I saw one reviewer refer to as a “Cirque du Soleil-esque” talk-music. Since I had read the review beforehand, I was expecting this. What I wasn’t expecting was the stark contrast this would create with the raw simplicity of two dancers on stage and an occasional saxophone cameo— so much so that the contrast was almost comical! Perhaps this aspect would be somewhat lost in a full-scale production, however, in the context of the Fringe, I thought it was a fun and quirky detail.

The dancing itself started off comparatively demure—I suppose as demure as tap dancing can be— but the numbers picked up as the show went on. Something that always amazes me about tap dancers is how their top halves and faces seem to be so calm while their feet are moving a mile a minute, making little rhythm craters in the floor. Come to think of it, I actually wished dancers, Andy and Rick Ausland had made a bigger deal and hammed up some of their moves because I think sometimes the difficulty of the steps they were executing was lost on the audience. If you weren’t astute enough to notice their dampening shirts and glistening foreheads (probably my one criticism of the show was that damn, someone get these guys a sweatband, hat or a barrette, or something) it could have ALMOST looked easy.  The stronger tapper by a slim margin seemed to be Andy, whose fast footwork and perfectly centered quadruple (or pentuple? is that even a thing?) pirouettes were stellar. I did enjoy Rick’s subtle nods to Tap 101, by dotting his more contemporary steps with the more traditional time-steps and buffalos. I also enjoyed how the dancing would, at times, create a little conversational vignette with the saxophonist: Willie Moore.

What Rick may have (only slightly) lagged in tap, he MORE than made up for in his spirited bucket performance. Like, for real? They were both phenomenal—  but he was ROCKING OUT—like Garth on Wayne’s World status. Their complimentary talents became all the more clear to me after seeing this gem of a picture, created by Twin Cities cartoonist Timmah Pacello: image

The climax of the drum piece occurred when the duo entered the audience  and began drumming on the seats, guardrails, floor, walls, and even handing off a pair of drumsticks to an unsuspecting audience member!

The theme of audience participation—an apparent given with any B&TS production—came to a head with the end of the performance, when they invited a trio of youngsters to hula hoop on stage. One little girl, I’m pretty sure, is probably like the hula hoop champion of Minnesota because in the maybe 5-8 minute stint, she did not stop hula hooping for even one second. She even managed to grab a t-shirt while doing it—the girl has a gift.

Anyway, if you’re maybe a Fringe newbie who’s totally overwhelmed by the 176 choices of a performance or just in the mood for a super solid good-time, be sure to catch Buckets and Tap Shoes at the Fringe!