Scroll to Top

‘Dance Nation’ review: Struggling to make all the right moves

By california scoop / Published on Tuesday, 08 May 2018 18:45 PM / Comments Off on ‘Dance Nation’ review: Struggling to make all the right moves / 14 views
Spread the love


“Dance Nation” offers a vivid reminder that nailing choreography in a routine with all the right moves isn’t easy. Either is life.

Fearless and funny but frustrating, the dramedy by Clare Barron at Playwrights Horizons follows tweenaged girls and one boy in a competitive dance company as they try to boogie their way to victory.

Advertisement

Think of a mash-up of “A Chorus Line,” which is summoned for a second, “Smile,” “Dance Moms” and any number of coming-of-age tales.

Besides other troupes, the young dancers have to deal with each other and maturing — and that can be seriously cutthroat. Bonds break. Blood flows. Self-confidence sinks. Parents fail. Ambition and talent become the enemy.

The production directed and choreographed by Lee Sunday Evans avoids the typical pitfalls when adult actors play pre-teens. There’s nothing precious or twee going on here whatsoever — quite the opposite.

Clare Barron's fierce but frustrating play keeps actors and audiences on their toes.

Clare Barron’s fierce but frustrating play keeps actors and audiences on their toes. (Joan Marcus)

The work is bold, with ample profanity and flashes of nudity. But it trips up because it’s too freewheeling for its own good as it drives toward its message of female empowerment — where it comes from and how it’s lost and preserved. Subjects are raised and quickly abandoned. The tone shifts willy nilly.

It’s okay for a play to be messy, but Barron’s work self-sabotages. That happens when a character who’s described as being seated during a dance never sits when the routine is performed. It sounds nitpicky, but it makes everything that’s said — including raging feminist rants — unreliable.

Despite flaws, the 105-minute show is uniformly terrifically acted by the nine-member ensemble. There are wonderful moments. The most memorable one comes when the most gifted dancer is crowned for her achievements. The sparkly topper stirs bad feelings in the ranks. So she pulls her hoodie over the crown. Without even thinking about it, she hides her light under a bushel.

Characters in “Dance Nation” at time shout at the top of their lungs. The play is most effective and eloquent when it’s silent.



Source link