Danceworks’ “The Sequel!” a blockbuster smash
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.
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.
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.