Theatre Review: DANCE NATION at The Wilma

Insights Abound in Dance Nation

Dance Nation by Clare Barron, now playing at The Wilma, is a very funny play, but it is so much more.  Depending where one got his/her knowledge of competitive dancing, it proffers insights about competition, coming of age, facing one’s limitation, and teamwork. Margot Bordelon’s crisp and invigorating direction carries us through what it is like to prepare for a dance competition.

The playwright greets us aggressively with an energetic tap number.  It establishes both the quality of the dancing and their age.  Perhaps the most impressive thing about the production is how Director Bordelon allows the thirteen-year-old girl to emerge in each scene.  Emerge they do.

Dance Nation follows the troupe as they prepare for the next competition. We get to share the dreams, the fears and the conflicts that are unique to the dance world and especially to young teen women.  The playwright treats us to group scenes, one on one scenes and occasional soliloquies.  By doing this we get to sort out what the dancer says in public, in person and in her heart.  The soliloquies were very expositional.  They were all very effective, but the soliloquy offered by Philadelphia veteran Suli Holum (Ashlee) is mesmerizing.

This is a true ensemble work.  There is no weak link. Clare Barron has crafted a play that gives all characters a stake in the show.  Keith Conallen as the dance coach is great walking the line between driven automaton and caring coach.  Julianna Zinkel is effective as several moms.  She provides a necessary voice for the young dancer to hear. Brett Ashley Robinson as Zuzu shows us how self-doubt affects both performance and friendships.  Campbell O’Hare plays Amina, the groups best dancer, but she also doubles as choreographer, a job she does very well.

Director Bordelon is helped by a wonderful staff.  Matt Saunders (Set Design), Maria Shaplin (Lighting Design), and Elizabeth Atkinson (Sound Design) combine to create a perfect playground for the director and actors to create the magic.  Amanda Gladu’s costumes provide the right sense of dance costuming.

Dance Nation runs until November 10th at the Wilma Theater.  For information go to www.wilmatheater.org.

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