Arts & Leisure

MACo presents ‘Dance Nation’ on May 13

Middlebury Acting Company’s Cutting-Edge Staged Reading series presents “Dance Nation” by Clare Barron, on Friday, May 13, 7:30 p.m., at ArtsRiot in Burlington and on Sunday, May 15, 4 p.m., at the ART Performance Space in the Hannaford Career Center, Middlebury.  This series aims to share the bold, clever work of some of the most dynamic young writers to hit the New York scene in the last decade.  Each play enjoyed a successful run in a boundary-pushing Off-Broadway theater. Each play speaks to our contemporary moment.


Somewhere in America, an army of pre-teen competitive dancers plot to take over the world. And if their new routine is good enough, they’ll claw their way to the top at the Boogie Down Grand Prix in Tampa Bay.

A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2019, “Dance Nation” is about so much more than cutthroat competitive dance, as playwright Barron fearlessly tackles the under-explored dramatic territory of young adolescents entering puberty.  The play is weirder and darker than its subject matter might lead you to presume and with its (sometimes crude) adult language is not a play for children.

It’s a brave, visceral, somewhat off-kilter play. It’s angry and it’s sad. It’s brash and it’s funny. And it gets at something rarely explored: the burden of modesty on young American women. Barron’s manifesto seems to be: No more apologizing. No more downplaying my own talent. No more insidious, self-sacrificing, accommodating, niceness!

While most of the characters in the play are between the ages of 11 and 13, the playwright specifies that the roles must go to a group of diverse adult actors.  In our largest cast yet the Liverpool, Ohio, dance team training for the nationals is led by Dance Teacher Pat (Andy Butterfield) and includes six “girls” (Aly Perry, Marianne DiMascio, Cael Barkman, Wendi Stein, Zeina Salame, Rohini Prabhakar and Meili Huang) and one boy (Delente Keys).

In “Dance Nation,” Barron conjures the passionate ambivalence of early adolescence with such being-there sharpness and poignancy that you’re not sure whether to cringe, cry or roar with happiness.

Admission is by donation; suggested $10.

Warning — ADULT LANGUAGE — high school age and above.

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