By Jay Menard
If one could focus exclusively on the dance and tune everything else out, Rebellion would be an excellent dance show. The performers, from The Dance Movement, execute the choreography beautifully. They are strong dancers as an ensemble, performing flawless synchronization when called for, and standing out as individuals when given the chance.
Unfortunately, direction and production decisions makes it impossible to tune the others out. And the dancers are obscured by directorial decisions that are implemented with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The performance suffers as a result and the dancers are the victims of the decisions.
The show bills itself as “an energetic exploration of insubordination and revolt in modern culture.” And instead of letting the dance speak for itself, Rebellion makes sure to hammer home that theme at each and every point.
School shootings, nuclear war, social media isolation, mental health, racism, our place in modern society — all are presented. It’s not fair to say they were explored, because that would insinuate a progressive exploration. Instead, the themes are blasted to the audience with all the subtlety of a flashing neon light.
It often seems like the spoken word elements are more important than the actions of the dancers. Frequently, the dancers are obscured and rendered as secondary — or even tertiary (when you factor in lighting) elements of the show. At one point, dancers are rendered stationary props for a speech by former President Barack Obama. In a section where the speech implores us to go beyond the superficiality of social media and embrace unique, individual relationship, all the dancers are obscured by lighting — rendering them an faceless, anonymous mass, as opposed to celebrating the very individuality that we’re being encouraged to do. And the overuse of the slowly raised fist effect descends into self-parody.
It’s too bad because the dancers are extremely talented. Based on dance alone, this is a four-star show and there are a number of performers and performances that would be worthy of being highlighted. Unfortunately, they’re not given the opportunity to take centre stage because an overwrought vision gets in the way of the view.
This review originally appeared on theatreinlondon.ca