Fringe Review – Ballroom Dancing Ain’t for SissiesSep 9th, 2012 | By Kat Richter | Category: What Kat Saw
by Kat Richter for The Dance Journal
Ballroom Dancing Ain’t For Sissies, which premiered to a sold out crowd at the Society Hill Dance Academy last night, was—to put it simply— delightful. Written by local playwright Donald Drake and choreographed by Society Hill’s own Kate Slovich along with dancers Katie Mizak and Anthony Mauriello, the hour-long show was both humorous and well executed: the perfect start to the 2012 Fringe Festival.
A whirling Viennese waltz sets the stage for Jackie and Jill, a lesbian couple intent on learning to dance for their upcoming nuptials. Played by Alexa Krepps and Leila Ghaznavi, the pair gets off to a rough start. Despite their best efforts (including the completion of 1,000 practice steps after every lesson), their teacher, played by Anthony Mauriello, is less than impressed. Dressed in an overcoat reminiscent of his days in the Marines, Mauriello struts around the stage with a cane like the most formidable of Russian ballet teachers. He can’t wrap his head around the idea of two women dancing together. “There has to be a man,” he bellows. “That’s how ballroom dancing works!”
As Jackie and Jill try to master the waltz, their relationship begins to fall apart. Actress Nicole LaGrone steps into the save the day, but not before reminding the couple, with all the compassion of a flight attendant, that they did sign a contract. The studio, therefore, is not responsible for any “collateral damage” to their relationship.
Even though the plot becomes somewhat predictable, the script had the audience in stitches. Anyone who has even taken a dance class, or dreamed of taking a dance class, can relate to the couple’s anxiety as the annual showcase draws near, and there are plenty of jokes for political junkies as well.
Transitions between scenes are seamless as student dancers perform short interludes: the tango, the waltz and the foxtrot, which Jackie and Jill dismiss as “for old people.” The couples march across the studio like zombies, exhausted by Mauriello’s relentless tutelage, and the beauty of Ballroom Dancing Ain’t for Sissies is that nobody takes themselves too seriously.
During the Fringe, this is a rare feat. The play is about gender roles, and the transformative power of dance, but there’s enough pastiche and satire that we don’t mind contending with such large themes in a tiny ballroom studio. Slovich and Drake seem to remember that connecting with their audience is just as important as expressing big ideas and as such, they do both successfully.
The final scene is hardly Dirty Dancin’ but, heck, it made me want to get up and dance. And the combination of dialogue and dance interludes made for a charming yet cohesive performance. A word of warning: the studio only seats a few dozen audience members so if you want to catch the show—which you should— get your tickets now.
Ballroom Dancing Ain’t For Sissies by Donald Drake and Kate Slovich
Sunday, September 9, 2012, 8:30PM – 10:00PM
Sunday, September 16, 2012, 8:30PM – 10:00PM
Society Hill Dance Academy, 409 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Kat Richter is a freelance writer and teaching artist. Her work can be found at www.katrichter.com