Comedy dance theater is a rare thing. Possibly it is unique to the Irish company ponydance, currently performing at the American Dance Festival–but not in a theater. Instead, the ebullient four-member company dances and prances, slithers and slides on the concrete floor in front of the bar, with no real separation between performers and audience, in the Showroom side of Motorco Music Hall in Durham’s hopping DIY district. Motorco is a place one expects to have fun, and not bother one’s head with cruel facts or baffling philosophy. With ponydance cavorting and joking, much fun is had–and the only lingering question is the same as the dance’s title: How Did It All Go Right? (I think the answer is, sass and smarts.) The program (just under an hour) repeats through Sunday, July 21. As of this writing, there were a few tickets left for the Sunday performances only.
The show opens with a good-humored mockery of every long-winded stage introduction you’ve ever heard, given by a pixie-faced dancer with fabulously curvaceous anatomy. Paula O’Reilly–in a different dress, as Drama Queen–will soon join, or I should say, interrupt, company artistic director Leonie McDonagh and dancer Neil Hainsworth in their pick-up dance of mutual attraction. Danced in a bar, set in a pub–what other song could they begin with but “Sexual Healing?” Combining comedy, narrative dramatics derived from life’s favorite drama–sexual connection–with audience teasing, and fresh acrobatic dancing, How Did It All Go Right? is a complete hoot.
The basic story is augmented by the post-post-modern conversion of the Drama Queen to show director, chiding and bossing the sleek McDonagh, and reminding us that this is an art event, not merely another evening down at the pub. The troupe also makes a great deal of use of the audience, getting very close to those in the front row–grabbing their hands, toppling into their laps, sweeping one lucky person up to twirl around the floor. The shenanigans continue til closing time, when the long-suffering bartender gets his moment. Jetting out from behind the bar in leopard print boxers and some foxy gladiator shoes, he puts Irish dance/disco moves on “She’s A Lady,” and lashes out some stunning fouettés before leaping onto the bar and shakin’ his booty while the other three dancers do a back-up routine wearing similar gear. I was laughing so hard I could barely hear the Drama Queen reprise her announcer role: “You have been wonderful. We have been wonderful.” They took their bows accompanied by Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual.” With ponydance, it’s clearly not unusual to have fun with anyone. Perfect.