Tom Strini

Stand-up dancers, step-up comics at Danceworks

"The Show" comedy collective hooks up with Danceworks Performance Company to make jokes move.

By - Sep 27th, 2012 04:00 am
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Andrea Moser

Dani Kuepper and Andrea Moser first worked together in high school shows, out in Hartford, Wis.

“I still remember the choreography,” Moser said. She proved it with a shoulder-shaking, boob-rolling move right there in the interview chair. “We were in mock turtlenecks and jeans. Very avant-garde.”

Kuepper went on to an MFA in dance at UWM and to become artistic director of Danceworks. Moser became an actress, with a special gift for sketch and improv comedy. She and like-minded comics Karen Estrada, Matt Huebsch, Doug Jarecki and Jason Powell (also the group’s composer-music director) have performed together as The Show for a few years. Comedy has always been a big part of Danceworks. It’s natural for them to get together, and the two companies will combine in What’s So Funny? It opens Friday, Sept. 28 at the Danceworks Studio Theatre and runs through Oct. 13.

Kuepper and Moser got re-acquainted when they were both teaching in a summer youth program for Next Act Theatre.

“In 2008, we decided we should do a show together,” Kuepper said. “Then we both got pregnant.”

They had to wait a while, but now the time is right. They started planning What’s So Funny? in earnest a year ago. The sketch comedy show has no theme, other than this: In every vignette, dancers must speak and comedians must dance — a point of rigor that scared the daylights out of both sides, at first.


Dani Kuepper

“We had workshops on Thursday nights, and I broke out in a sweat before them,” Kuepper said. “To do something literal, with words? To pay attention to where the story is going? That’s what we can’t do.”

“We get together and talk out scripts,” Moser said. “We improvise, but we still have to have a script. When we get to rehearsal, we know how it goes. Actors sit down and talk first. Dancers work it out by doing — dances evolve in the dancing space. We’re going at it from opposite ends.”

Kuepper knew that the actors would be tentative about dance movement, so she took the early lead and “bossed everyone around.” She had to get that movement on their bodies. She sold them on the idea that intent and impetus were enough. She got the actors to quit worrying about their inability to get that leg as high as the dancers do. The important thing is to fully commit to the movement.

“There was some, ‘Wow, when I do that with my elbow it just doesn’t look the same,'” Moser said. “It was intimidating. The dancers’ lack of fear impressed me. They just physically throw themselves into it.”

Both companies have improvisation in common. They don’t usually wing it in performance, but they do arrive at a final product through improvisation in rehearsal. Over the course of several months, they managed to make their methods mesh.

“It’s helpful to be made to think from a different perspective,” Kuepper said.

“We’ve all been pushed,” Moser said. “But everyone dances, and everyone speaks.”

The Cast: Danceworks Performance Company, Melissa Anderson, Kim Johnson-Rockafellow, Dani Kuepper, Christal Wagner, Joelle Worm, Liz Zastrow, Alberto Cambra (guest artist); The Show, Karen Estrada, Matt Huebsch, Doug Jarecki, Andrea Moser, Jason Powell.

The Schedule: What’s So Funny? opens Friday, Sept. 28 at Danceworks Studio Theatre, 1661 N. Water St. Fridays, Sept. 28, Oct. 5 & 12, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Sept. 29, Oct. 6 & 13, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 4, 8:30 p.m.

Tickets:   $28 reserved seats, $22 general admission, $16 students and seniors. Season subscriptions to DPC are also available $60 for three concerts. For tickets or full subscriptions, call 414-277-8480, ext. 6025, or visit Danceworks’ website. Free parking is available.

Don’t miss anything. Keep track of DPC and all of Milwaukee’s performing arts — bookmark Matthew Reddin’s TCD Guide to the 2012-13 season. Sponsored by the Florentine Opera.

Danceworks Whats So Funny photo by Dan Bishop

Dan Bishop photo for Danceworks.



Categories: A/C Feature 2, Dance

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