Originally gathered for research, black-and-white video interview segments of many diverse people responding to questions about dance were projected and combined with live-action spoken word, choreographed movement and some audience interaction. Clad in street clothes, the cast of seven aligned with the video in myriad ways, most compellingly when the performers moved or danced in response to what an interviewee was saying. Their ideas were expressed figuratively through movement, usually sidestepping the literal. Emotions were merely suggested, not dictated.
In this meandering exploration, interesting questions were raised about personal early memories of dance, what dance means culturally, why more people don’t go see dance and why more people don’t dance. What is the difference between movement and dance? The choreography appeared to reflect some of both, walking the line between pedestrian movement and more dancerly forms, such as basic ballet positions.
The cast seemed to be comprised of trained dancers and other movers — though I hate to differentiate given the context! — so I imagine choreographic compromises were made. Yet it all fit in with the inclusiveness of the varied takes on dance presented live and onscreen.
The choreography remained largely unvaried throughout in its tempo, tone and simplicity. Even as movement, it felt static. I longed to see more dance, but the people talking on the video usually commanded more attention.
At the show’s halfway point, the house lights came up, and the performers posed questions directly to the audience to foster discussion. Though it felt a bit awkward at first, people warmed to the idea and offered responses.
Occasionally, I found myself paying closer attention to the interview snippets than to the performers, and I wondered whether those video parts were intended to be the primary focus. (I wanted to pay less attention to the video when it became hard to see because the stage lights were too bright during part of the second half.)
There was also humor and poignancy woven in, uncovered through audience identification. Re-enacting the standard way couples “dance” at school dances provided some laughs. So did some multiple answers to the same question from different people when spliced together one after another: “The Nutcracker” … “dragged to see The Nutcracker.” “Money” … “money” … ”money.” Reports of feeling uncomfortable and body image concerns often arose. Ballet got dissed a bit, too.
But where was the joy of dance? I was a bit surprised that the piece didn’t ask or address more about what people loved about dance. I wanted to leave feeling excited about dance, but I felt more lulled than stimulated by a good portion of the discussion and movement.
At best, this piece examines a subject most non-dance fans rarely if ever give much thought to. The dance-related questions were sufficiently broad to give the piece a sense of cultural hodgepodge interest and novelty. I liked it, but then dance is near and dear to my heart. I fear those who have no interest in dance at all — or at least in what people have to say about the subject — might not dig this. Taken as an exploratory documentary, however, it’s enjoyable and worthwhile for most Fringe-goers.
After the show, I wondered whether the video could have worked just the same on its own without the performers’ enhancements. Perhaps I was recalling what one interviewee said: A good work of art should be able to stand on its own and translate for everyone. Then I decided that the performers really brought life, brought live, living, breathing movement to the content — which is what dance ultimately is all about.
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