Rock Bottom Movement’s production of MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS was my first experience of absurdist dance, and it was a ton of fun: energetic, frequently very funny, and extremely strange. Overall, this Next Stage Theatre Festival show is an exuberant, colourful exploration of — well, I’m not entirely sure, but it’s certainly exuberant and colourful.
Who knew that dance could be so funny? For me, the humour came from carefully crafted visual surprises (the eyebrow choreography) or downright silliness (the part with the pink tubes). Each dance was striking and memorable in its own way. The pool dance was my favourite: it was impeccably choreographed and performed. Once I let go of the desire to understand what was happening at every moment, I had a great time.
The strangeness of the dance was heightened by the costumes (by Kelsey Wilson), which featured sheer shirts, dangling tassel-collars, and pink faux fur outlining the dancers’ genitals on their white shorts. It’s worth mentioning that this show contains nudity, fairly substantial smoke effects, and audience participation.
I enjoyed the feeling of coziness produced by having choreographer Alyssa Martin and dramaturg David Bernstein present onstage during the show. They sat on the sidelines, which were marked off from the performance area but were still plainly visible to the audience. Putting the “offstage” area onstage made the show made me feel like we were all participating in the experience of the show together.
I thought MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS was at its best when it was poking fun at itself. I couldn’t help but laugh when dancer Josh Doig stopped telling his silly story to announce “I have to go dance now,” or when the performers exaggerated their movements in a way that gently made fun of modern dance choreography. The people seated around me seemed to love this show; some of them laughed nearly all the way through it.
There were even some touching moments. At the end, audience members were encouraged to light the multicoloured LED tealights we were given upon entry to the show. The dancers came out into the audience, the lights went down, and the performers began to sing a heartfelt cover of “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks. As we waved our little coloured lights, I thought I heard some audience members singing along. Or maybe it was just me.
- MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRLS plays at the Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst St).
- Tickets cost $15; there is also a range of multi-play passes available.
- Tickets can be purchased at the door, online, or by telephone (416-966-1062).
- Be aware that performances start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content warnings: Show contains nudity, smoke effects, and audience participation.
Photo provided by the company.