23/09/2023 - 21/10/2023
Written by Clare Barron
Director - Alison Walls
Intimacy Director and Choreographer -Kira Josephson
The Court Theatre
Having taken the theatrical world by storm, receiving rave reviews and selling out performances across the globe, Clare Barron’s Dance Nation shatters the façade of cuteness, offering front row seats to a power-struggle and pursuit of flawlessness.
Step into a dazzling world of sequins and high-stakes drama, where perspiration mingles with the thrill of performance. Picture six teenage girls and a lone boy, brought to life by adults spanning generations from their 20s to 50s. In a mesmerizing twist, they embody the intricate dance of thirteen – a volatile fusion of innocence and insight, laughter and heartache.
Unveil the layers of this darkly comedic masterpiece, a play that has garnered accolades and acclaim. Watch reality and fantasy entwine in a spellbinding spectacle that blurs the lines of imagination. These characters extend an irresistible invitation, inviting you to rediscover the realm of adolescence. As they navigate the path of self-discovery, they lay bare their vulnerabilities and dreams, leading you on an unforgettable journey.
23 Sept – 21 October
Mon and Thur 6:30pm
Tue, Wed, Fri and Sat 7:30pm
Senior (65+) $49
All concessions (see website) $34
Group (6+) 10% Discount Applies to Standard Adult, Friends, Child and Senior tickets
Bookings: phone 0800 333 100 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz
CHARACTER PLAYED BY
Dance Teacher Pat - James Kupa
Amina - Ash Williams
Zuzu - Keagan Carr Fransch
Connie - Kalyani Nagarajan
Luke - Tom Eason
Maeve - Jacque Drew
Sofia - Rosalind Lay-Yazdani
Ashlee - Lizzie Tollemache
Crumpled Sailor AKA Vanessa and The Moms - Kira Josephson
Set Designer - Mark McEntyre
Intimacy Director and Choreographer -Kira Josephson
Costume Designer - Daniella Salazar
Sound Designer - William Burns
Operator - Rosie Gilmore
Lighting Designer - Giles Tanner
Stage Manager - Scott Leighton
Construction and Premises Manager - Matt McCutcheon
Properties Manager - Julian Southgate
Choreography Intern - Joelle Baclig
Comedy , Theatre , Dance-theatre ,
Stellar ensemble cast pour their heart and soles into triumphant Dance Nation.
Review by Ruth Agnew 24th Sep 2023
It took me a little longer than usual to complete this review, because I had to explain the whole concept and history of Stage Challenge to my partner, dig out and display my Speech and Drama competition medals, then act out each part in every Stage Quest, Sheila Winn Shakespeare Fest, and Crash Bash entry I’d been involved in.
Dance Nation draws upon the fervour and life-changing importance felt at adolescent competitive events, whilst offering insight into the agonising internal struggles faced by children dealing with excessive pressure to excel. Claire Barron’s script has been collecting accolades and awards since its 2018 Off-Broadway premiere for its celebratory yet darkly comic depiction of precociously talented and driven preteens fighting for their place at dance comp ‘Nationals’. In the hands of Court Theatre Artistic Director Alison Walls, the story feels accessible and familiar.
One core aspect of the show is the casting of adults (aged in their 20s to 50s) with little dancing experience in the roles of prepubescent emerging stars. The mannerisms and teen intonations are at times so accurate we see them as thirteen-year-olds, while at other moments they highlight the cruelty of viewing adolescents through the adult male gaze.
My inner-Abby-Lee-Miller came to life when (spoiler alert) Kira Josephson lined up alongside the others in an early ensemble number. Here, obviously, was the tip of the pyramid, our shining and shimmying star, our dancing queen. Josephson’s tap-dancing YouTube videos helped me through a tough pandemic lockdown, so I had high hopes for high kicks and low backbends from her character…until she went down, hard, never to demi-plie again. Dance comps aren’t for everyone, Kira. Someone has to launder the leotards, right hun? Thankfully, Josephson was kept busy in the guise of a parade of dance moms, as well as choreography.
James Kupa embodied Dance Teacher Pat brilliantly; I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather have admonish my preteen triple threat for her floppy fouettés.
It seems unfair to single out individuals for mention in such a stellar ensemble cast, but, as many a dance teacher has surely explained to their students, life ain’t fair, buttercup. So, without further ado:
The Twilight Trophy for heartbreaking bloodletting and finest feral incantation goes to Keagan Carr French as Zuzu.
The Yoni Egg Award for outstanding delivery of an empowering monologue affirming female sexuality goes to the fierce, fiery Lizzie Tollemache (Ashley).
The Howl at the Moon Cup for exceptional timing (Comedic/Tragic), for her sweet, gentle wolf card compassion, goes to Jacque Drew’s Maeve. If there were as many Maeves as there are Dance Teacher Pats in the competitive dance scene, maybe fewer shooting stars would burnout.
In the face of tough competition, Rosalind Lay-Yazadani is this year’s recipient of The Rising Star Crown (aka ‘this new b*tch is damn good, let’s keep an eye on her’ award), as well as the Out Damn Spotlight Award for Period Perseverance, and the ‘Elle Woods, Who?’ Mortarboard for Brilliance in Pink Costuming.
The Ryan Gosling Unitard for Lonely Boys goes to Tom Eason, as Luke the boy dancer. Should his dance aspirations not come to fruition, I would happily adopt the adorable, hapless lone male troupe member.
The Ziegler-Siward Take A Bow: It’s Tough at the Top Trophy for nuanced humble-bragging as Amina, Ash Williams.
Galloping away with the Follyfoot Horseshoe for Excellence in Unexpected Onstage Equine Use is Kalyani Nagarajan. Nagarajan’s face may be familiar to fans of Raised By Refugees, but the facial expressions she summons as Connie are entirely unique.
The connection I felt with the characters tiptoeing in tights through their teenage years will resonate with anyone who has poured their heart and soles into any adolescent performance competition, and the insight offered into the position we put these young people in is valuable for all of us. So, dust off your leotard and start stretching, and take your places for your next role: as audience members at the Court Theatre’s triumphant Dance Nation.
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