In the green-purple darkness of the 9:30 Club, languages mingle coolly above casual pre-show music. A trim woman wearing a black dress with enviable twirl potential snakes knowingly through the crowd.
As the music fades, the audience drifts to the room’s periphery as a clean yellow light announces the concert’s beginning. Suddenly the woman in black, now the prized alumna of the audience, slumps at a solitary bar table in the corner of the dance floor. Let the ballet begin.
As the Dakshina Dance Company investigates club-life drug addiction, friendship, and love, the choreography seems to naturalize dance rather than express pedestrian life more artistically. Apparently pirouettes and handstands infrequently resolve real-life club conflict; purposeful walking and indulgent embraces seem to be the more popular options. With the exception of a spirited hip-hop number and bursts of sporadic movement, the dancers generally explore the space with slow, sustained gestures. But the hunger for innovation often eclipses the choreography’s novelty. In a partnered piece, for example, six ropes dangling from the ceiling accommodate little more than swinging in straight lines. The concert retains its allure, however, thanks to the dancers’ bewitching emotional investment.
Luckily Act Two means comedy. Four members of the Washington Improv Theater join the dancers to build the audience-constructed story about Jews for Jesus, eavesdropping, and underwear. The result is dazzling. Dancers and actors assume equal responsibility for the story as it advances between settings as varied as Victoria’s Secret sales and a fatal bird-watching expedition. Dancers become slap bracelets, whoop whoop birds, and tug-of-war rivals as actors contribute rain forest symphonies, intercepted phone calls, and confessions like “when I kneel down to pray my panties ride up.” Wonder and laughter strike a joyful equilibrium.
A third act brings a salsa-tango-folksong cabaret, featuring the kaleidoscopic Salsa Rueda troupe. The tenor of the performance is perhaps too mellow to sustain its epic run-time, but this eclectic potpourri still manages to transfix and surprise. And with audience dance breaks to separate each piece, everyone gets a chance to bust a funky move – Fringe-tastic.
Running time: 3 hours
Songs of My Life has closed.