26
Jul
13

Don’ts For Dancers

 

Don’ts For Dancers

Judith Wright Centre and Matthaei & Canham

16 – 20 July 2013

 

Reviewed by Simone Mutimer

 

Don’ts for Dancers welcomes you to the Lonely Hearts Club, where the scent of desperation mingles gently with the scent of taboo.

 

This absurd session in etiquette, dancing and mating will waltz you through the pitfalls and positives of looking for love on the dance floor. In a world where the cut of your dress, your online profile and the way that you move can spell social success or suicide, find out what happens when these rules are taken to the extreme and translated into contemporary music and dance.

 

Cheaper than a psychiatrist, Don’ts for Dancers is one part self-help session for the left-footed lonely heart, one part arthouse cabaret on crack!

 

WARNING: Heartache, disappointment and the Macarena may be involved. Parental guidance for kill-joys and/or persons who may have been hypnotised into the anti-dancing state is advised.

 

Choreographer and Producer: Nerida Matthaei

 
Musical Director: Nicole Canham

 
Performers: Nerida Matthaei, Nicole Canham, Leah Shelton, Alex Baden Bryce and Lisa Fa’alafi

 
This work has been created in collaboration with the performers.

 

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From the moment we entered the darkened room we were part of the story.

 

The space was set up as a club in the 1920’s with the actors swanning around in character.

 

Our tables were decorated with our dance cards for the night and there was a bar off to the side. Suddenly I found myself excited and nervous wondering if I would have to dance in front of everyone.

 

We all go on an intimate journey with each character as they attempt to perfect their every move with the dance instructor, who is channelling the lesson of Dr Casanova. In an era where social etiquette was paramount – don’t slouch, don’t talk too much, chest out, chin in, not too stiff, not too relaxed – a time when a woman would never refuse a man…

 

We slip through time and into different music and dance, from Swan Lake to Beyoncé, to a world filled with text dating and LOLs, and a place where women are dancing on an equal dance floor with the men.

 

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I can’t compare this performance to anything I have seen before. The whole time I was invested in the characters and their individual struggles. I felt that I connected with them all on different levels, slipping from their own personal strengths and weaknesses, and comparing and competing with each other.

 

I enjoyed the humanness of it all; the vulnerabilities, the shattered confidence, and the pressure to fit in and measure up.

 

As story and movement were beautifully interwoven, the performers broke into beautifully perfect contemporary dance moves and at times, clumsy mismatched steps.

 

The instructor’s constant stress to correct and bring everyone up to a certain standard allowed us closer, as we watched her live through them, pitting her own personal struggles against perfection.

 

The journey was dynamic and fast paced, and I found myself continuously drawn into the story and excited to see what would happen next.

 

In the end, we come to the conclusion that the dance styles might have changed, the fashion and the lingo might have changed, and social etiquette has completely changed. But the search for love on the dance floor is timeless.

 

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