By Emma Dante; Translation by Francesca Spedalieri
Directed by Francesca Spedalieri
Choreographed by Francesca Spedalieri, Sarah Ware, and Sifiso Mazibuko
Produced by Wrought Atlas Theatre Ensemble
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.28.15
VENUE #7: The Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street
by Antonio Minino on 8.16.15
Sifiso Mazibuko and Sarah Ware in Dancers. Photo by Ieva Blazeviciute.
BOTTOM LINE: A nostalgic retrospect of a couple’s life together.
There is nothing more devastating than the loss of a loved one, and when that loved one is someone you have spent decades of your life with, building a family, a trust and a home, we often find it hard to move on. We rely on the memories, the nostalgia, the haunting spirit, or better yet guiding presence of our better half. What if you found a way to relive all of it? The good and the bad. Such is the case in Emma Dante’s Dancers. Implementing mask work, movement, and 1960s Italian pop songs, an elderly woman (Sarah Ware) brings back her husband (Sifiso Mazibuko) from the dead —or from the corners of her mind— for one last ride down memory lane.
Donning impressive age masks, we start in the present, where daily activities are a struggle; from trying to open the ever so pesky child protected pill bottles, to passing the time glaring at the pocket watch tick and tock their lives away. The only indication that these actors are of a younger age is pure assumption. From their bent spines to their arthritic fingers, the specificity in their movements is exact and commendable. Once the masks are off, the pop begins and we continue to fall backwards in time all the way to when the couple met and had their first date, their wedding day, many New Year’s eve celebrations, childbirth, arguments, and love of dance.
Don’t let the title fool you, Dancers is not what you would consider a traditional dance piece, yet director and choreographer Francesca Spedalieri (Ware and Mazibuko are also credited as choreographers) does a good job at incorporating joyful steps, the kind you would see enthusiasts partaking in when dancing on the sidewalk cafés of Italy. The music is an integral part of the play, as there is barely any dialogue, relying mostly on the actors' fine physicality and the lyrics to tell the tale. This serves as somewhat of a disadvantage to the non-Italian speaking audience, who must make sure to check the program where useful translations are provided. In the carefully selected music one can find the newly restored lovers and a newly restored nation.
The silent character in the play is Italy herself, the post-war rebirth, world influences and the “Italian economic miracle” of the 1960s. All are apparent within the beats of the show, and within the well crafted performances by Ware and Mazibuko.
(Dancers plays at VENUE #7: The Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street, through August 28, 2015. Performances are Fri 8/14 at 7:15; Sun 8/16 at 8; Thu 8/20 at 5:30; Tue 8/25 at 5:30; and Fri 8/28 at 8:45. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit wroughtatlas.wix.com.)