Fringe Shorts: Dance Hall Days

Kim Surkan had a great time at “Dance Hall Days” at The Red Eye Theater, despite the heat. It's playing at the Red Eye, at 15 W. 14th St. , on Wednesday, 8/9,, at 8:30; Friday, 8/11, at 4; and Sunday, 8/13, at 2:30.

Dance hall

If you’re like me and you love ballroom dance of all flavors, this is the show to put on your “must-see” list. In Dance Hall Days, director Christopher Yaeger and dance historian Lance Benishek showcase the key steps associated with each of the decades of the twentieth century. Starting with ragtime and ending with rock ‘n’ roll, this cast of nine dancers put their feet to the floor and demonstrate both the chestnuts and lesser-known dances that were once in their heyday.

While many of us have seen or heard of classics like the Cakewalk and the Foxtrot, others, like the Turkey Trot and the Grizzly Bear, aren’t often memorialized in film or theater. This might be for good reason – some of them look quite silly performed in full evening wear! Put into the chronological order of their evolution, however, they make sense and tell a story of the progression of social dance steps over time.

The dancers are clearly having fun with these numbers, both in larger groups performing the 1914 Castle Walk, and also in pairs or solos. Yaeger demonstrates the tango with partner Blanka Brichta, but by far the standout act of the whole performance is the energetic 1930s swing “Shag” by Bill and Shannon Butler, whose synchronization is positively hypnotic.

Interspersed with the dance performances are video clips from the periods in question, some actual dance footage from the era and others made up of old television commercials. Shannon Butler uses silhouette gorgeously in her choreography of “Black Bottom,” set for a trio of three flappers from the Roaring Twenties.

The Red Eye as a venue is less than optimal for air conditioning, so leave your long sleeves at home; audiences get an opportunity to join in on the conga line at one point in the show. If you don’t mind the heat, “Dance Hall Days” is definitely an hour well spent.