Jack Your Body celebrates underground dance trends through the ages at Toronto’s Next Stage Theatre Festival
Back by popular demand to this year’s Next Stage Theatre Festival is Mix Mix Collective‘s Jack Your Body, version 2.0, having made their debut at last year’s Fringe. Jack Your Body is a diverse and innovative celebration of underground dance styles through the ages from the here and now straight through to 70s’ Soul Train.
Dance performances for me have always been a hit or miss. Though I’m far from a dance aficionado, I can appreciate a piece of beautiful movement. If well performed, choreographed and executed, you’ll have me sold. Unfortunately, Jack Your Body didn’t entirely sell me.
My less-than-stellar impressions began when I walked into the Factory Studio main space and noticed a collection of dancers on stage as if this was back stage. With costumes and other personal belongings strewn across the stage, the performers chatted among themselves, stretched out their limbs and applied makeup. I wasn’t sure what to make from watching this, was this in any way part of the performance or did they all decide to get themselves prepped on stage while the audience filed in?
As the show began the audience was encouraged to hoot, holler, cat call, and otherwise cheer on the performers, each with their unique stage name and personality. This is also not a performance where the audience is asked to keep their cell phones away — photos and videos are highly encouraged.
The performance didn’t start clean, as dancers were still milling about, awkwardly shuffling their belongings to the side as the actual dance began. The beginning felt like a dance party, a free-for-all session, where the audience was encouraged to cheer for their preferred performer who vogued the proudest, gave best face, or executed the fiercest runway strut.
Though I managed to get into the cheering a bit, I felt removed — this opening came off as intimate, as if dedicated to other performers in the dance community. Not knowing any of the dancers, I felt like I was watching someone else’s party.
The staging was also off within the first few numbers — dancers came close to running into each other during group numbers and not everyone was on time. But that awkwardness soon ironed itself out once the performers settled on their flow.
I can’t fault the dancing, these guys can move and the choreography is quite impressive. Cheers to choreographers Emily Law and Ashley Perez for showcasing each dancer’s strengths and creating truly exciting pieces to watch. I enjoyed seeing the evolution of old school and underground dance styles and can now say I have a new-found fondness for the history of voguing. Also, kudos for bringing Techno-Tronic’s Pump Up the Jam back into my life and the Donna Summer tribute.
I believe there’s a lot of potential here for an exceptional and fun dance performance, but the staging and opening can use a bit of work and the transitions could be cleaner. There were times where I also wished the performance was longer.
If you’re looking for something fun and different to see during Next Stage and you’re not a stranger to the dance floor at a club, you’re bound to appreciate Jack Your Body.
- All Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets for all shows are $15 for performances on the Main Stage and in the Studio and $10 for performances in the Ante-chamber
- Showtimes and ticket information for Jack Your Body are available at fringetoronto.com/next-stage-
Photo of choreographers and performers Emily Law and Ashley Perez by Tanja Tiziana.