The first time dancer James Guasto saw the Australian blue-collar tap-dancing group Tap Dogs was after he auditioned for a part.
"It blew my mind," Guasto said during a phone call from his hotel in Long Beach, Calif. "All I could say was `Wow!' And the fact that they were dancing with metal ladders, using water and all that industrial stuff made me that much more excited about the job."Guasto is one of the six tappers (or should we say boot stompers?) who make up the Tap Dogs company that will kick through town July 7-12 at the Capitol Theatre. Performances will open July 7-10 at 8 p.m.; July 11 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and July 12 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets range from $25-$37.50 and are available at all ArtTix outlets or by calling 355-ARTS (2787).
Guasto, who started dancing at his mother's dance studio in Long Island, N.Y., as a child, said being in Tap Dogs was worth the teasing he endured as a child.
"Back then, kids made fun of you for dancing and not playing ball," Guasto said with a laugh. "If they only saw down the line a bit. I mean, I never would have imagined a show like Tap Dogs.
"But I did get into tap more than I did the other forms of dance. I think what drew me to it was the rhythms and the fact that you do them with your feet."
Since the original Tap Dogs company, founded by Dien Perry, officially burst on the scene at the Sydney Theatre Festival in 1995, the demand for the production has increased by a million-fold.
The idea of using work boots as tap shoes and steel beams and buzz saws to create forms of rhythm hit about the same time another theatrically industrial rhythm group called Stomp went mainstream. And to round out the movement is the street tap production of "Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk," with Savion Glover.
"I think one of the eye-opening experiences I had was the auditions," Guasto said. "There were so many people there trying to get a part. That made me feel great - the fact that there were so many people interested in tap. Of course, that made me realize that I had to dance my best to even get a chance."
Guasto has been a member of Tap Dogs for a year. Since 1995, the Tap Dogs production has expanded to three full-time companies. There are four touring Tap Dogs companies currently on tour. In the past two years, they have danced in more than 100 cities in 11 countries.
"I never guessed my hobby of dance would later become a career of this magnitude," Guasto said. "I knew at a young age that I would like to dance for a livelihood, but I didn't think I'd be dancing like this."
Not only do the dancers dance on grids, beams and other metallic platforms, but a couple of dancers strap on harnesses and literally dance on the ceiling. And for those kinds of stunts, rehearsals are just as important as rhythm.
"We rehearse every day when we are touring," said Guasto. "We go to the venue an hour early and sometimes we are asked to arrange our schedules in other ways."
For the most part, however, the members of Tap Dogs are at the mercy of the tour.
"The traveling is hell," he said. "It does get tiring, but it's all part of the job. It does get hard waking up in the 30th city of the tour and having to find out where we are and what our schedules are. But the dancing makes it all that worth while."
Guasto said his main concern for the immediate future is to hold on to this job as long as he can.
"Eventually, I'd like to go back to college," he said. "I'm a dance major and already have a job, but I'd like to look at my options when I get older.
"I'd like to possibly teach in the future and even produce my own shows."