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Fringe 2011: 'Never Look in the Mirror When You're Dancing'

by Philip W. Sandstrom

August 26, 2011 -- 4th St. Theater, New York, NY

In a cute and touching autobiographical dance-drama from the perspective of a middle aged woman whose parents are ballroom dancers, even now in their 80’s, "Never Look in the Mirror When You're Dancing", directed by David Keating, at the 4th St. Theater examines how dancing can define lives. Seen from the viewpoint of a child, played by Kay Scorah, we are introduced to Mr & Mrs Scorah, played by twins Erin Hunter and Faith Hunter Kimberling. (Choreographers Jessican and Megan Kennedy, who originated these roles, are also twins.) Their story, text by Scorah, which revolves around the child dancing in the family house, while her parents, continually practice ballroom dance moves in their small living room.

The dancing couple is unerringly ethereal and effortless. The use of twin women, as Mr & Mrs began as an interesting gender-neutral device but, by halfway through the 30-minute show, began to wear thin as it became clear that the “man” dancer was not capable of telegraphing a male presence or identifying with the weight of a man’s movements. The partnering was fluid and effortless but looked more dream-like than real, the dancers seemed to float, the movement lacked the subtle shifts of weight and force that add character to male-female partnering.

That being said, the story was charming, especially when Scorah, playing herself as a child who would frolic upon an over-size bench/stool (a enlarged replica of the one she had when a girl) making the grown women appear child-size via the principle of juxtaposition. Her movement patterns and technique accurately portrayed the awkwardness of a child at play. Later, we are introduced to the real childhood stool made from a sturdy fruit box many years ago. This piece of personal history informed the piece with a certain nostalgia.

It is important to note the title, which refers to the ballroom dancer’s gaze into their partner’s eye, which was bewitchingly executed by twins ; this habit sharply diverges from ballet and contemporary dance where, during the rehearsal process, the mirror is your friend.

The show ends with a video of the real Mr & Mrs Scorah in their living room as they demonstrate a few of their signature ballroom dance routines complete with accidental missteps that culminate in laughter. Although a satisfying moment to be sure, it only made me want to see Scorah’s parents in the flesh upon the stage, working their routines yet one more time. The show was directed by David Keating.

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