Matthew Reddin

Danceworks’ “The Sequel!” a blockbuster smash

By - Jan 21st, 2012 06:15 pm

“The Sequel!” pulls genres as diverse as Westerns, sci-fi and Bollywood for its eight dances. Photo by Mark Frohna.

For every The Empire Strikes Back, there’s a Phantom Menace. There’s Toy Story 3, then there’s The Little Mermaid 2.

Thanks to Hollywood’s penchant for cranking out franchises like a sausage factory, there’s plenty of good and bad material to compare to Danceworks’ The Sequel!—the successor to their successful 2010 show Lights, DPC … Action! The Sequel! falls squarely on the Godfather Part II side of the equation, making this one sequel you’ll stand in line for.

Like its predecessor, The Sequel! features dances that touch on various genres of film and screen. Previously, they covered musical comedy and horror; now, we get Westerns, sci-fi and more.

The results are cinematic gold. It starts fun, with dress-shirt clad dancers sliding in Risky Business-style for Holly Keskey’s Like Nobody’s Watching. There’s not much plot; dancer bop around with air guitars, in a sloppiness so pitch-perfect it must be by design. It’s a reminder as much as a dance: going to the movies should be fun.

Not always, of course, and the exceptions are amazing. Take Sarah Gonsiorowski’s Quentin’s Women: On love, leadership and the pursuit of living, a choppy, discomforting dance laced with cut-up dialogue from three of his films. Let me be clear: I’ve never seen a Tarantino movie, didn’t recognize any references, and tend to think of Uma Thurman—who all three dancers resembled—as either Poison Ivy or Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen etc. But this was absolutely spellbinding to me.

The only thing more captivating was Without a Word or Sound, choreographed and performed by Kim Johnson-Rockafellow. In this documentary on grief, Johnson-Rockafellow’s subject is her mother’s recent death from cancer. But that is not clearly denoted in the piece.

That makes no difference. Johnson-Rockafellow quivers, rocks in a chair, throws herself about, prays, panics, does everything but break down in tears and collapse. It’s a dance so dark it should never fit among the rest—even the other serious ones—but the show would be worse for its absence.

Works like “Superman XIV” and “What Weirdos Wreaked Wreckage With Westerns” play with audience expectations. Photo by Mark Frohna.

But those are the exceptions. On the whole, this show is fun, and the cast enjoys playing with your expectations, often by shattering the fourth wall. Dani Kuepper’s Superman XIV is the first to go this far, with her Superman, a lithe, fluid Simon Eichinger, mugging for the audience instead of saving his Lois Lane (Liz Zastrow) from (of all people) Darth Vader. In Eichinger’s What Weirdos Wreaked Wreckage With Westerns?, a cowgirl actually mugs the audience.

Yet to limit either piece to their gags does them a disservice. Westerns is a wonderful, lighthearted bit of storytelling, and Superman packs the technical punch to pair with its sci-fi/superhero theme. When Eichinger and Zastrow take to the skies, their motions seem so fluid and natural it takes a long while to realize what they’re doing—lifts, spins, leaps—are nothing more or less than traditional dance moves. They’re doing something more than dancing in those moments.

No sequel is perfect, of course, but only one piece in the set left me a bit cold: Down the Rabbit Hole, a romp through the motif of Alice in Wonderland by Keskey. On a technical level, she’s brilliant, especially once she made it to the tea party and was able to break out her psychotropic moves. But most of the rest is aimless wandering, and it just couldn’t hold my attention.

The show closes with Occidental Tourist, a Bollywood-inspired piece choreographed by Melissa Anderson and Eichinger that pulls characters from across the rest of the show—and Harry Potter and Spock, strangely—to participate. It’s a spiritual twin to the opening piece, a fun, gleeful bookend. And when it’s over, all you want is the one thing a good sequel is designed to make you want: more.

Danceworks’ production of The Sequel! runs through Jan. 29. Tickets are $20, $15 for students/seniors, and can be ordered at (414) 277-8480 or the Danceworks box office.

0 thoughts on “Danceworks’ “The Sequel!” a blockbuster smash”

  1. Anonymous says:

    You missed mentioning a very beautiful piece, “play…as time goes by” by Kelly Anderson. Very touching with classic movement.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree with missed mentioning a very beautiful piece and my favorite, “Play…As Time Goes By” choreographby by Kelly Anderson. An elegant “sequel” to Kelly’s piece from the Lights, DPC…ACTION performance. Once again a pleasure to watch the touching and classic movement between Kelly Anderson and guest artist Steven Moses.

  3. Anonymous says:

    To J. Trevis and C. Kroll:

    You’re absolutely correct in pointing out how wonderful Kelly Anderson’s “Play…As Time Goes By” was. Its absence from the body of this review was purely a matter of length restraint on my part for the benefit of the reader–I didn’t mention the show’s interludes or go into as much detail about the Western or Bollywood numbers as I would have liked for the same reason. If I’d managed to trim down the review elsewhere, though, I’d have loved to reference the work in greater detail; I thought it was an incredibly well-crafted piece with a simple, understated gracefulness.


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