At Out of the Loop, DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) playfully takes on etiquette and gender in NICE.
Addison — If you have seen previous works by Danielle Georgiou then you know she dances to her own rhythm and is not afraid to push the audience outside its comfort zone. Her latest work for DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group), NICE, which premiered in November as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Elevator Project, brings audiences face-to-face with the many underlining themes of what it means to be nice in today’s world. Georgiou and her conceptual partner Justin Locklear used spoken word, full-body movement and the catchy lyrical musings of composer and comedian Paul Slavens to drive their point home at Saturday night’s showing of NICE at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival. The effect is a full emersion into a world that pokes fun at Emily Post and society’s addiction to false niceties especially in regards to women. A touchy subject indeed, but Georgiou’s satirical approach brings a lightheartedness to some of the more controversial themes present in the show.
The fourth wall is immediately brought down as the 10 performers escort us to our seats. They smile politely as they make comments on our wardrobe choices or lack of a wedding band. The overly fake smiles take the sting out of these comments and the interactions show Georgiou’s knack for pushing people’s buttons without pushing them over the edge. As the show starts the performers walk across the stage, make eye contact with an audience member and again offer a back-handed compliment such as “that juice cleanse looks like it’s really working for you” or “those jeans fit your body real well.” From here Georgiou sets up different scenarios using individual or group movement choices as well as spoken text and the grandfatherly advice of Slavens to pick apart this social norm of being nice.
Following a monologue by newcomer Nick Leos, who fits right into the group with his silky voice and grounded movement, a 50s-inspired housewife stands demurely by as her husband verbally belittles her and then physically pushes her down. In another scene two males grope a female as she tries to push them away to no avail. As the music swells the dancers begin shoving away from one another only to be pulled back together like magnets, caging the female between them. The tension that has been slowly building is suddenly released as two females run on stage in their underwear in an act of rebellion. Their movement is spastic yet free-flowing as they run and fall to the ground in alternating patterns.
These intense sections are broken up with more upbeat group dances, which make audiences members laugh despite their discomfort with the accompanying culturally insensitive tunes “Slap Her Down Again Pa” and the Polka classic “She’s Too Fat For Me.” The first is a flapper-inspired number where four females dressed in gold fringe dresses shimmy and shake as the male’s cat call to them. The movement was simple—foot shuffles and hand flicks—but the fast timing of the song added suspense. It was obvious the females were enjoying the attention they were getting, but still pretended as if the men weren’t there. Slavens also took part in the changes of pace with a role alternating between humor and the voice of reason. During the show, he emcees a “Dear Abby”-style Q&A where performers showcase racist views within earnest-sounding questions on “nice” behavior, and he responds with even more shocking advice or justifications that add comic relief to a potentially volatile theme.
Despite having received negative attention in the flapper number, when the women were ignored by the men in the final dance section, this was even worse. Spread diagonally across the stage the men remained stoic as the females tried to draw their attention by kissing them, flailing their arms, dropping to the ground and smacking their butts. When this didn’t work the female’s movements became more desperate as they screamed in the men’s faces to look at them. As this is occurring a lone female is having the same battle with a long panel of white paper hanging from the ceiling. In her desperation she rips the paper in half so she is now exposed to the audience. Her focus turns on us as she yells at us to look at her, once again pulling the audience into the piece.
This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.