Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Fringe Fest 2013: DABDA

Exquisite dance captures teenage turmoil

The dancers of DABDA. Credit: Alvin Collantes
Venue: Factory Theatre Mainspace, at 125 Bathurst St, Toronto ProjectDABDA

I’m going to get it over with quickly, because it’s going to come out at some point. The boys of DABDA are incredible. Beautiful dancers, beautiful storytellers, beautiful bodies. I know it’s probably mostly my perverse mind, but the very first dance number of the show is a “beach scene,” and it is practically artistic pornography, there’s so much skin. Though, even after they put on their clothes there is still captivating artfulness in this contemporary dance production. The women of DABDA are just as strong, so we can’t solely chalk this up to me getting my jollies.

Imagine all the feelings you had when you were a teenager: the great depths of angst, the almost violent joy, the sense of wonder and despair, and all of your friends around you feeling the same thing. That feeling is what DABDA translates, through dance, to the stage. The story: on July 4, 1947, a group of middle- to upper-class teenagers escape the fancy trappings of their lives to go party on the beach, and the little sister of one of the characters disappears. The aesthetic is great, but the dynamic and feeling of the show is timeless. The emotion resonated just as strongly in this 1990s kid. The dancing captures the reckless, explosive, tumbling feeling of adolescence, so major kudos to directors/choreographers Alvin Collantes and Hayley Paone on their work.

A small quibble is that the program reveals there’s no sound designer. For the most part there was no problem, but a show where the music is so integral, coming over the speaker system, it was clear when the sound file quality wasn’t the best it could have been.

The story is bookmarked with a video prologue and epilogue, which are both well done, but they feel cutesy and unnecessary, not doing justice to the pacing of the show once the dancing starts. I found myself wishing instead for words, a direct address outlining the plot, which could then let the dancing take over.

I have never seen such a wonderful dance narrative; the story is crystal clear throughout. In every scene I almost immediately got the events, the feeling and the characters — no small feat. The program gives a great deal of detail about the story and characters, but it’s almost unnecessary, because the performers are so committed to their roles.

Although it's another show where it’s almost impossible to single out individual performers because of the collective effort, Darian Mark in the “Framing Frederick” scene exemplifies the incredible energy of the show. Similarly, Kelly Shaw as Avery is one of those performers who draws my attention whenever she takes the stage. She spends much of the show as the happy-go-lucky friend, but her “Joyful Girl” dance number exquisitely invokes the hidden mental-health problems of her character, and the juxtaposition is that much more poignant.

Even if you, like me, aren’t a dance person, do not miss this show. So much of the time at live performances I will myself to be entertained, or to just feel something. With DABDA I was more often than not overcome with emotion. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe.