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Groovaloo Freestyle

Despite some remarkable dancing, the show's ambition exceeds its reach.

Ivan Valez and company in Groovaloo Freestyle
(© Levi Walker)
Let's say this right up front: the dancing in Groovaloo Freestyle, now at the Union Square Theatre, is oftentimes thrilling and amazing. As a dance-theater piece, however, the show's ambition far exceeds its reach.

Conceived and created by Bradley Rapier and Danny Cistone, the show presents itself as a contemporary version of A Chorus Line with the performers dancing and telling their own stories, but the script falls somewhere between banal and pretentious. As much as it would like to inspire, it too often comes off as empty rhetoric and ignores an essential rule of writing: don't tell us, show us. (Most of the personal stories are recorded and told as voice-overs while the dancing happens onstage.)

Fortunately, the performers do get to show us their talent, energy, and complete commitment to their art. They throw themselves in to their dance routines with abandon, and each one expresses himself (or herself) in a style that is distinct and individual. Some of the dance riffs are so extraordinarily athletic that your jaw drops at the physical prowess of these performers. From literally dancing on one hand to spinning like a top on one's head, these are not moves you'll see in standard ballroom dancing.

There are, however, some anomalies in the show that beg explanation. For instance, if Groovaloo is all about a sort of hip hop version of dance improvisation, how is it possible that the show is essentially frozen into specifically choreographed set pieces in which all the performers dance in unison?

Groovaloo insists on selling the idea that this kind of exuberant, freewheeling dance can free the soul. And the show, under Cistone's direction, proselytizes its message of transcendence at such a fever pitch that it verges on religious fanaticism. But isn't it enough to be simply entertained?