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REVIEW: Dance Nation (Almeida Theatre, London)

I don't want you to read this review. I don't want to spoil the unpredictable delights of Dance Nation. However, if you fee like you need some help deciding whether or not to see the production at Almeida Theatre, or if for some unfortunate reason you're unable to drop everything and book your ticket right now to see Dance Nation before it finishes at Almeida Theatre on 6th October 2018, then I encourage you to read on.


Dance Nation is a new play from writer Clare Barron, and is directed at the Almeida Theatre by Bijan Sheibani. A cast of adult actors of varying ages play a dance troupe of teenage girls (and one teenage boy) making their way through the various stages of rehearsing for and performing at a dance competition. For the teenagers, it is a journey of self discovery as they evaluate what their passion for dance means to them, while also dealing with exploring the tantalising and threatening promises of adulthood as they begin to cross over the threshold from prepubescence.


Now before I go any further, I must make it known that I'm entirely biased, at least in my views pertaining to one of the cast members. I'm a Sarah Hadland addict, and I admit completely that it was her involvement in the production that drew me to it in the first place. However, I can say with confidence that, even if she had not been cast as Sofia, I would have been left just as...well, how can I describe it? Pleasantly disturbed.


With such a versatile age range playing a group of characters of the same age, it's interesting to see how well this dynamic works. Kayla Meikle gave a particularly startling performance of the externally strong yet internally weakened Ashlee, and Irfan Shamji injected humour at the darkest of moments as Luke, the only male in the teenage dance troupe chanting about female genitalia.


Added to the mix of powerful acting and emotive plot is the incredible footwork. The choreography, from Aline David, is a beautiful sight, with each performer displaying exquisite control and timing. There was never a moment when on the stage as displayed anything less than beautiful.


So, Dance Nation is ticking all the right boxes, but I must stress that it's not going to be a production for everybody. The language is strong, emotions are high, and there is a touch of nudity. However, if you are happy to enjoy all of that, then I am confident that you will also love the quick costume changes, the brilliant character development, and infectious laughter throughout this play that will leave you questioning what your dreams mean to you, and just how much you're prepared to sacrifice to achieve them.


By Amy McLean