The Princess & The Pea (Or) A Millennial’s Guide to Dating wasn’t what I was expecting. Based on the show’s description in the Fringe guide, which includes the ominous phrase “you are the next contestants on The Princess & the Pea,” I was afraid that there might be audience participation. Much to my relief, there isn’t, although your mileage may vary; I’ve heard some people enjoy that sort of thing.
I also expected it to be more, well, millennial. Born in the early 80s, I believe I am technically a Millennial, but I was engaged and out of the dating game years before Tindering was a thing (see, I don’t even know, do people call it Tindering?). I went into this modern dance show like an anthropologist, hoping to live vicariously through the dancers and get a taste of what dating is like these days. Unfortunately for me, other than a few references in the dialogue to Pinterest, hashtags, and, yes, Tinder, there wasn’t much to peg this show as a specifically Millennial experience. On the bright side, that means that this performance is one that can be universally appreciated.
The Princess & The Pea is a dating game show hosted by the bubbly Brianna Stewart. Sarah J. Ewing is the bachelorette, and Mat Elder and Thomas Moore round out the troupe as the two bachelors. Through the choreography and brief skits between the dance numbers, we learn that one is cocky and womanizing, the other is sweet, if a bit predictable. The bachelorette asks them the usual questions about hobbies and perfect dates before leaving them (and the audience) to ponder something more profound: “How will you know when you fall in love?”
The Princess & The Pea (Or) A Millennial’s Guide to Dating
Conceited, directed and choreographed by Sarah J. Ewing
Details and tickets
The opening pieces, choreographed to Bitter: Sweet’s “The Mating Game” and Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband” are peppy and exuberant. The dancers spring, whirl and roll about the stage with relentless grins plastered to their faces. After a time, the ceaseless perkiness begins to read as a commentary on the false faces we wear in the dating game in order to make a positive impression. The posturing continues in the next number as the two bachelors square off in a humorous dance battle. The mood then changes abruptly enough to cause whiplash as Ewing moves into a solo, her stretching and reaching body depicting to my mind yearning, longing, and loneliness. The abrupt changes in emotional tone from one dance to the next are helped by Adam Bacigalupo’s lighting design, which uses bold color washes and strategic spotlighting to enhance every mood.
The director’s note suggests that the show should make us laugh, and there are lighthearted moments, including Thomas Moore’s sassy gender-bending homage to Motown girl groups in “Too Many Fish in the Sea.” But the latter half of the show primarily takes watchers to a darker place. In a powerful dance choreographed to cellist Jeffrey Zeigler’s frenetic piece “Babel”, the dancers engage in confrontational partner exchanges that remind the audience that dating is not all fun and games, and can, in fact, cross a line to sinister and dangerous.
Ewing’s choreography, developed in collaboration with her ensemble, takes the audience on a journey through multiple emotions of dating. The ride gets a bit bumpy at times as you are shoved from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, but as someone who has been out of the game for a while now, it’s a good reminder of all that I am missing about dating, both pleasures and pitfalls.