photo credit: Kylene Cleaver

An Evening of Opulence: SHARP Dance Company’s Captivating Cabaret Performance

The SHARP Dance Company presented “Une Soirée au Cabaret” at the Mummers Museum in Philadelphia from November 3 to 5. The show, which had its beginnings in response to the 2011 PIFA call for dances inspired by 1920s France, has transformed into a captivating performance that has been showcased on stages across the country and internationally.

“What does cabaret mean to you?” the Master of Ceremonies, Ben Michael, inquiry prompts contemplation on the essence of the evening – a time to immerse oneself in the beauty and languor or cabaret, reveling in the joy of music and dance. Not often do you see a show that, before it begins, the audience is invited to partake in a collective pause, taking a deep breath together and settling into the enchanting space. A space so elegantly adorned in tulle curtains, a glowing chandelier, and the ambiance of a 1920s speakeasy. The setting, dancers, and even the audience, dressed in flapper attire, contributed to the immersive experience. “Bourbon turn” serves as your password into this captivating world. 

The show graces the audience with 15 memorable numbers, seamlessly blending dance and live vocals, all while charming the audience with a charismatic emcee. Choreographed by Diane Sharp-Nachsin as well as a couple pieces by Miguel Quiñones and Sandra Davis, the eight dancers adorned the space while transporting the audience to the romance of French cabaret. Dressed in fishnets, feathers, lace, and sequins, the performers encapsulated the era’s essence.

Songs like “La Vie en Rose,” “C’est si Bon,” and “September in the Rain” added their own glamour to the show. Brief interludes featuring vocalists Ben Michael, Chelsea Stanell, and Jen Hallman provided visual respites, enhancing the overall dynamic. 

“Une Soirée au Cabaret” was a remarkable feat of endurance, each dancer pouring their energy into every movement. From even the highest seating you could see the vivid facial expressions, all bright and wide smiles, and you could see the lines being pulled from even the deepest muscles. The choreography, a blend of balletic grace with quick skips and hops, created a breathless atmosphere. Quoted from the audience as “multi-dimensional,” you felt infused with the “cabaret spirit.” You relished in each flick from the dancers and felt the glee in their sweet movements.

From the elevated second-level seating, the choreographic shapes of the dancers were visually captivating. The smallest detail was not missed, for even the feathers that littered the space after a frenzy were acknowledged as they were carefully collected by the attentive “feathermen.” I could even spot the look of pride on Migual Quiñones’s face as he watched his dancers perform “Marinella.”

A special moment was the “cape dance,” a spotlight break from the feathers and fishnets, capturing attention and adding a layer of intrigue.  Sandra Davis heightened the elongated movements of the lengthy fabric, mimicking a heron-like creature. 

The entire performance included motifs of skips, hops, and leaps that brought about a light and airy touch to their already impressive technique. The balletic style amongst the dancers promoted an elegance that complimented the scenery of the staging. Each dance reflected a different energy whilst also came together for the theme of the show. A modest use of lighting and color design created intrigue with each introduction.

On and off the stage, the performers exuded familial energy, evident in their interactions with the vocalists and the pride resonating from Sharp-Nachsin. The essence of collaboration and respect for each other’s craft permeated the entire show, resonating with the audience’s constant excitement. 

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