Fringe Review: Fall in love with those tapping shoes again in “From the Top”


(Photo Credit: Cynthia Clayton)

Now it’s become even easier to live your tap-dance dreams vicariously through Subject:Matter’s “From The Top,” a sensational work of high energy choreography and incredible tap skills. This piece, all the way from Boston, Massachusetts is guaranteed to make anyone in the audience want to slip on some tap shoes and join the enchantingly talented ensemble onstage.

Choreographed and directed by Ian Berg, original work “From The Top” uses quick and precise tap choreography to portray estrangement, dissimilarity, and repetition. Six dancers and six pairs of tap shoes come together to tell a wordless tale that takes some deep thinking to figure out. Throughout the piece, there are many different dances, from solo pieces to full ensemble choreography, all blending into one another to create one coherent piece in which music, dancing, and lighting all live in harmony, thanks to the work of a skilled technician.

(Photo Credit: Cynthia Clayton)

Berg brings forth a piece that in such a way, blends these elements together to make it clear that the show was meant to tell one big story. Not a single word is spoken throughout the tap-dancing spectacle, (aside from the supportive whoops and cheers coming from fellow ensemble members) though that is not to say that the show lacks voice. In fact, the dancers themselves were so immersed in their craft, that they manage to hypnotise the audience without any incantation needed. That is to say, if you are someone who prefers a crystal clear, concisely narrated story that is easy to follow, this may not be the show for you. Though, from the wide variety of people who were in the audience, and their delighted reactions, it is easy to say that this is a show for everybody. There was a moment while leaving the theatre, when a man in complete awe turned to me and exclaimed; “That was incredible! I went in not knowing what to expect, and it still exceeded all my expectations!” And I can confidently say that the rest of the audience felt the same way. From the Top had such a vivacious and infectious energy that had audience members head-bopping along to the music in their seats and collectively cheering the dancers on. 

The music choices in this show, while unusual, did not disappoint. Songs you like The Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman” and Maurice Williams’ “Stay”, were pleasant surprises that added to the unique and fresh quality of the piece. The music was matched with different lighting for each song and ran in a sequence that was repeated several times from the top (see what they did there?) The music was loud and spirited and the tap dancing was even louder, as the entire performance was done, quite impressively, on a cheap wooden stage. The dancers had such an intensity about them that it was clear to see wood chips that had separated themselves from the stage jumping in the air along with every pound of the performer’s metal clad soles. They were clearly trained and knew their every step, without faltering once, and their genuine smiles made it scarcely feel like watching a show at all. It truly felt like watching a group of people join together and do something they love, in a beautiful, loud, vibrant and youthful display of tap dancing. 

(Photo Credit: Cynthia Clayton)

More than just a dance piece “From The Top” is inviting, calling forth anyone who can appreciate a talented group of young individuals, who have clearly trained for years to reach such a level of technique. It is for anyone who can enjoy a low budget dance show that relies on personality, talent, and smart tech choices. I would easily suggest this show to any lover of live performances, and I would not hesitate in seeing it again. It felt like I was hanging out with a group of incredibly talented friends, telling a story by doing what they love, and it was absolutely awe inspiring. 

Dance and theatre lovers alike who are in need of a good energy boost and who have always dreamed of tapping their hearts away onstage but prefer to just watch other people do it instead.

Subject:Matter presents “From the Top”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival

Performances: June 8 – 16, 2019
Venue: 09 – Club Espagnol
4388 Saint-Laurent, Montréal, H2W 1Z5
Admission: $10 – 12
Box Office:
514.849.FEST (3378)

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Check out all our other 70+ reviews 
from this year’s fest on our Fringe page!

Melanie MacDonald

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