Don'ts for Dancers
Reviewed by Samara Purnell
“Don’t be frightened of your partner” and “Gentlemen should follow their partner’s idiosyncracies” was some of the advice demonstrated in “Don’t for Dancers”. Inspired by the book of the same name, Nerida Matthaei and Nicole Canham interpret and play with dance etiquette from the 1920’s and blend it with today’s music, dance styles and social mores.
On arrival, audience members are approached to fill the performers’ dance cards (a fan), and if they politely decline, they are offered the option of stepping into the “dehypnotising” den for those who are of the anti-dance persuasion. An eclectic set included the bar on stage, (explaining the absence of champagne in the foyer on arrival!)
Matthaei and Canham were joined by Alex Bryce and Leah Shelton (and a few game audience members!) Bryce gave a wonderful performance as the debonair, albeit “wet” dance partner portrayed in old movies, and followed it up with a very funny, camp, jazz routine to Lady Gaga, where he flamboyantly accepted “belle of the ball”. His characterisation was engaging and entertaining, and he danced with flair and grace. Shelton, as chaperone, perfectly fit the stereotype of the 20’s flappers. She mixed humour with poise and strong dancing. Matthaei demonstrated strong technique and control and Canham’s dancing, which was not as strong as the others was overshadowed by her musical talent and creativity, which formed a large part of the show.
Some partner work seemed a little unnecessarily awkward, but on the whole was well executed and fluent. Cutting-in, sulking over not being chosen to dance, girl-on-girl fighting and the whole nightclub experience of trying to yell over doof-doof music, the awkward moment when you try to coordinate dance "moves" and of seeing your partner in full light at the end of the night are all touched on.
The toe-tapping audience was kept laughing as the Charleston seamlessly became the Nutbush, the Macarena, krumping and much to the amusement of the YouTube generation, Beyonce’s "Single Ladies" even gets a look-in.
The cast created a good chemistry and maintained a high level of energy throughout the performance. They exemplified just how silly, beautiful, awkward, exciting and challenging social dancing and etiquette can be!
After the curtain call, and filled with sage advice that Nanna would be proud of “Don’t go to unknown clubs and bars, they usually turn out to be sordid dens”, audience members bopped away on stage with the cast, or each other, to Whitney’s “I wanna dance with somebody”.
“Don’t for Dancers” was lots of fun with laugh-out-loud moments and a clever mix of dance, music, sound, comedy and social commentary, that seemed to leave the audience wanting more.
Then again, etiquette would dictate that’s precisely how it should be.
A version of this review appears in The City News, online from March 15.