I yelled “bravo” during a round of applause yesterday. I’ve never done that before. And it wasn’t even at the end of a show. It was during the act break. Of a children’s dance piece. Color me delightfully surprised.
So, yeah, you should this review strong advice to grab tickets to TETRISplus, a delightfully engaging, family friendly dance piece currently prancing, contorting and tumbling it’s way through a brief residency at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater. Exceedingly brief. Like, blink, and you’ll miss it, as Netherlands-based Arch8 troupe is only in town through Sunday the 26th.
TETRISplus features two original dances pieces by the experimental company, both choreographed by Artistic Director Erik Kaiel. The central theme of both pieces is the joy and wonder inherent to open and honest play, seen through the lenses of common childhood games and experiences. The first piece was my personal favorite of the two. Featuring Kaiel and troupe member Joseph Simon, No Man Is An Island’s premise is dead simple: one dancer essentially plays an extended game of “Hot Lava”, that childhood game that imagines only one rule: the floor is lava, to be avoided at all cost. The twist here is that the only other available surface is a second dancer’s prone, seemingly sleeping body. A surprisingly intense piano track builds the tension, as the dancers explore the notion of setting rules of a game, testing them, and then building increasingly intense elaborate rules and risks just to be able to find a way out again.
April 25 – 26
Theatre for Young Audiences
2700 F Street NW
1 hour, 5 minutes with no intermission
Tickets or call 800.444.1324
The second and longer piece, TETRIS, borrows from the eponymous video game on the most basic of shapes the four dances (Francesco Barba, Ryan Djojokarso, Mayke van Kruchten and Paulien Truijen) contort themselves into before stacking in various configurations. From this simple start, more complex forms emerge and other iconic toys and games of our collective youth appear. The joy of both TETRIS and No Man are in their sense of joyous play. These are pieces designed as a sort of primer on performance art that children can appreciate. More important to Arch8’s two pieces than technical precision is the warmth and joy of experimentation, exploring the limits of the body and, through that discovery, extrapolate to explore the limits of your world and imagine what may lay just beyond. Isn’t that what childhood play is supposed to be about?
Running about 65 minutes, Arch8 knows their audience. Just as TETRIS was beginning to stretch itself thin, and threatened to lose their young audience, they flip the script and the piece transforms into a blessedly chaotic, warmhearted piece of audience interaction, as we discover just how much about the possibilities of their bodies children have learned from less than an hour of observing professional dance. It’s one of the more beautiful, delightly carefree pieces of audience interaction I’ve ever seen.
TETRISPlus featuring Arch8 Dance Company . Choreography: Erik Kaiel . Featuring Francesco Barba, Ryan Djojokarso, Mayke van Kruchten, Joseph Simon, Paulien Truijen, and Erik Kaiel. Lighting design: Imre . Sound design: Simone Giacomini . Presented by The Kennedy Center . Reviewed by Ryan Taylor.