Dance Nation is many things all at once: A satirical mirror held up to recent popular (*shudder*) horrors such as the over-angry Dance Moms series, or the over-wrought Dancing Queen; A glimpse at how an unrelenting, competitive, sexualised world affects those taking their first steps towards adulthood. A compressed story of a group of young girls preparing for a dance contest told in short scenes that almost feels structured like a strobe light.
Things happen in the in-between moments, but playwright Clare Barron forgoes narrative hand-holding for compelling staccato bursts of character and lets the audience’s brains do the less-interesting heavy-lifting themselves; Zoe Boesen (Zuzu), Georgina Naidu (Connie), Natalie Gamsu (Maeve), Casey Filips (Luke), Caroline Lee (Ashlee), Hannah Fredericksen (Sofia), and Tariro Mavondo (Amina) were terrific in their roles as members of the dance company.
It’s great how a script and performance are built on the cliché of the struggling team working towards a one-shot at glory, but how, Director Maude Davey, has taken that text and cast (along with support from Shayne Francis as some of the Moms, and Brett Cousins as the girls’ coach) to make it fresh and entertaining.
For all the fun and calamity, there’s beauty in the garish gold and mirrored(esque) walls and the gold curtain when pulled along the back of the stage. Adrienne Chisholm (Set & Costume Design) and Clare Springett (Lighting Design) have fashioned a wonderful space that presents plenty of spectacle but (when the lights shift to come from upstage) also literally lets us see behind-the-curtain as well.
Regardless of whether it’s a new or established work, it’s engaging and immensely satisfying to be surprised when watching from the audience. Dance Nation has a lovely energy at its heart and provides more than enough surprises to make for a fun night out that exceeds expectations.
Red Stitch Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda East
Performance: Saturday 16 March 2019 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 14 April 2019
Information and Bookings: www.redstitch.net
Image: Natalie Gamsu, Hannah Fredericksen, Casey Filips, Georgina Naidu, Caroline Lee, Tariro Mavondo and Zoe Boesen feature in Dance Nation – photo by Teresa Noble
Review: David Collins