A girl graphically having her period, dancers stripping to change in a dressing room, Clare Barron’s Dance Nation at Playwrights Horizons, explores the adolescent of girls (between 11 and 14) and one boy in a competitive dance company. The cast is however much older and their ages range from 20’s to sixty something (Ellen Maddow). The work is laced with profanity, wreaks of the #MeToo movement and female empowerment, however as a women, I was lost in translation, as was my female guest.
The show starts with a tap routine ala “Fancy Free”, by not so talented dancers. In the end one breaks her ankle and is completely ignored for what seems like 15 minutes. Back in the rehearsal studio in Ohio, dance teacher Pat (Thomas Jay Ryan), is casting his new routine. He is bullying and gouding his young dancers to reach Nationals in Tampa Bay. Here, a rather ugly plastic trophy is their God. In the meantime these pubescent dancers are dealing with life. Zuzu (Eboni Booth), is unconfident and longs for the lead role, though she will not be able to pull it off. As the only boy Luke (Ikechukwu Ufomadu) longs for her. Ashlee (Lucy Taylor) can’t wait to be a women and wield her sexuality. Connie (Purva Bedi), still is a little girl playing with childhood toys, as Sofia (Camila Canó-Flaviá) get her period and we get to watch her wash the blood from herself and her tights. Amina (Dina Shihabi), is naturally a star dancer, who is afraid of both her body and her drive. Unlike her other friends she hasn’t been able to pleasure herself, so we get to watch her try in vain with a pillow.
The acting is well done with kudos to Lucy Taylor and Dina Shihabi, who got us to feel. Thomas Jay Ryan keeps things real.
Lee Sunday Evans’s direction, keeps this piece moving and her choreography is perfectly awful.
There was a lot of laughter by men and not so much by women. Maybe that is because we really do not want to relive this or if we do, we need don’t want it to be a reality show of our lives. Dance Nation felt like sabotage, since this is written by a women, but who is it for? Ironically this won 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.