by Andrew Henry
When I discovered that I had won DancePlug’s contest and had a pair of tickets to see Jérôme Bel’s “Gala”, I was very excited. Now, I need to start with a disclaimer: I’m not a dancer. I see a lot of different theater in NYC, and I can definitely appreciate the dance I’ve seen, but I’m not a critic. That being said, the show was a unique and quite avant-garde dance production that cannot be compared to anything else. The venue, NYU Skirball Center, is known for presenting a plethora of interesting and different productions, so I knew I had to be in for a surprise.
The show started with a 10-minute slideshow showcasing a variety of theatres, festival venues, arenas, and stadiums which essentially reversed the roles between performer and audience member. The production ‘officially’ started with a dancer who turned a page of a flipchart and revealed the word “ballet.”
The same dancer then performed a pirouette and left the stage. Thereafter, 19 other dancers followed the exact same routine. One by one a different dancer came to the stage, performed a pirouette with a single turn, and exited the stage. Of course, some dancers were more technical than others - it seemed to me that most of the cast had never taken a lot of ballet. Most of them performed with such a nonchalant attitude which added a great deal of comedy to the production because it was obvious that most of them had no interest in ballet at all. A boy with basketball shorts literally just spun and ran off the stage, and the audience and myself were laughing uncontrollably at his lack of effort.
After each dancer performed their unique version of a pirouette and single turn, another dancer came to change the flipchart and revealed another dance in which all the dancers then had to perform. The flipchart included “The Waltz,” “Solos,” a section called “Company Company” and my personal favorite, “Michael Jackson.”
In the Michael Jackson section, each dancer had to perform the “moonwalk” across the stage. The “moonwalk” is ONLY Jackson’s most renowned move, so of course there was no pressure, especially since Michael Jackson is still considered one of the greatest performers of all time! Every dancer tried their best. Some killed it and some...well, let’s just say Michael was rolling in his grave.
Throughout the entire production, I kept thinking to myself how much I loved the diversity within the cast, not just by race, age, and sex but by fashion. You could see everyone’s personality through what they were wearing. Some were dressed in yoga pants, glittery tights, basketball shorts, and of course tutus. They were not afraid to be flamboyant and bold. There were dancers who were about 60 years old, and still killing it. To me, the star of the show was a dancer who performed in her wheelchair. I loved how she did not let her different abilities deter her from living out her dream of being a bona fide dancer.
This production showed theatre in a new light and changed the definition of a standard theatrical performance, and I’m so glad I won the tickets and will definitely be entering the next DancePlug contest.