2003, $2.99, at Goodwill on Brand in Glendale
First Impression: This DVD is for ages 3 to 8.
Second Impression: I was that age once?
We find Bella Dancerella on a purple couch as she reads a giant book titled “Tap Dancing.” She introduces herself in that sing-songy inflection used by the child actors in the Peanuts specials.
“Let’s go meet some of my friends!” She chirps, and races to an open windowsill. She calls for two of her friends, who happen to be ponies. She’s Australian, so it sounds like “Pineys!” (Pineys, incidentally, are rural folk who inhabit the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. Some say they are descendants of Hessian mercenary soldiers from the Revolutionary War.)
The ponies are pink and blue full-body puppets with tap dancing front feet. No one’s been hired to puppeteer the back feet, so the ponies just drag around their useless hindquarters like those poor little injured kittens you read about on the internet.
Bella Dancerella introduces three little helper girls, who show us how to tap out the rhythm of our names. Everyone’s having a great time until a rumbly sound heralds the arrival of Stamp and Stomp, a pair of talking tap shoes made out of hot pink fleece with ping pong balls for eyes. They sing-talk like Ethel Merman and they loooooove iiiiiit! These two old broads are supposed to teach us all about where tap dancing came from, but then they don’t. Bella leads us in a stretch warmup instead. I feel cheated.
Then there’s a song where Bella teaches all the basic tap steps. She only lip syncs some of the time, but she knows how to smile as if her life depended on it. My favorite lyric is “I like apples, I like peas, fruits and veggies, bread and cheese.” This is turning out to be a pastel-colored Pee-wee’s Playhouse. I wonder why the floor isn’t talking.
Hearing a knocking sound, Bella and the girls go to the toy chest and extract the man who’s been hiding there. It’s Bella’s quirky friend Corky, and there’s nothing weird at all about him hiding in a toy chest. He’s dangerously depressed because he thinks he’s not good enough to be in the big show, but surprise! At showtime, it turns out he’s the best one. Like the title says, tap is a snap!