FRINGE SHORTS: “The Three Bonnies” by DA Dance

Lightsey Darst took in the horse-filled, cowboy-themed dance show "The Three Bonnies" by founding Zenon member Denise Armstead and found it to be an ambitious but puzzling production.


DENISE ARMSTEAD’S GOT A LOT GOING ON in her production, The Three Bonnies: it’s a danced relationship drama for three couples, with an overall cowboy theme and a (can I say this?) overriding horse metaphor, plus video projection of horses, scenery, dancing with horses in scenery, and the performers talking about relationships. Give Armstead credit for ambition; it makes me tired just to write all that.

Unfortunately, Armstead seems to have set herself too big a challenge. The choreography is pretty banal — not that this bothers me much. Armstead proves she still has it, years after retiring from Zenon, while her fellow Zenon alum, Devin Carey, shows his sweet charisma; and the rest of the dancers are no slouches, either. But there are other problems. The video veers into the unintentionally hilarious, sprinkled with Palin-esque gems like this: “Seeing myself with somebody else — in my mind the main part of that is me — with somebody else.” In their cowboy outfits, the dancers look like genuine posers. Meanwhile, the horses steal the show — I’d rather be watching them than the lightweight drama on stage.

The Three Bonnies didn’t do it for me, but I feel for Armstead. The persona she’s trying to put forward — a mature woman (Armstead wears her silver proudly), standing outside any prescribed role, pursuing her own desire — is largely undanced, unstaged. The battle for representation of this character should interest all women who would like, in the second halves of their lives, to be seen for themselves, not boxed away as crones or grandmothers. This makes it all the more puzzling that Armstead’s last dance is a duet, and one in which she spends most of her time being lifted by her strong male partner.


Fringe performance details for this show:

DA Dance’s The Three Bonnies is on stage at the Ritz Theater for three remaining shows: August 4 @ 10 pm, August 7 @ 8:30 pm, and August 8 @ 8:30 pm.

Check back regularly throughout the Fringe Festival for more short reviews on, sent in from our intrepid performance critics.

About the writer: Lightsey Darst writes on dance for Mpls/St Paul magazine. She is also a poet who served as the founding coordinator of’s What Light: This Week’s Poem publication project, and the founder and host of a monthly writers’ salon, The Works, at the Bryant Lake Bowl.

Lightsey  Darst

Lightsey Darst is a writer and critic based in Durham. She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts for both literature and dance criticism, as well as a Minnesota Book Award. Her books of poetry are Find the Girl and DANCE (2010 and 2013, both from Coffee House Press). Her criticism is online at,, The Huffington Post, and Bookslut. …   read more