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Most plays, if they involve a big dance number, employ a choreographer.
“Anger Dance,” the latest original production by Madison’s Left of Left Center troupe, features nine dance number handled by five choreographers.
Yes, nine and five.
Local choreographers Lyn Pilch, Heidi Hakseth, Odari Kimani, Marina Mars and Kerida O’Reilly each contribute their talents to director Ned O’Reilly’s latest creation.
The play’s plot pirouettes around multiple love triangles: You’ve got Evan (Jordan Humpal) whose eyes are straying “Careless Whisper”-style from his wife Mackenzie (Vanessa Vesperman) to his friend Lara (Rachael Nachtwhey). Lara, meanwhile, has a sexpot live-in beau (Noah Koebe) who’s been putting the moves on Lara’s friend Coco (Tia Tanzer). Did we mention that there’s also a character who plays the living manifestation of Evan’s anger? That role’s played by Jason Compton.
If it all sounds a little complex, just imagine what it’s been like for the choreographers.
“It’s so weird,” says Hakseth, who handled choreography duties on Madison Theatre Guild productions of “The Boy Friend” in 2015 and "Alice: A Rock Musical” last year. “My first reaction was, ‘Really? You don’t want just one person to do this?’”
But spreading the wealth of dance moves around has its advantages: Not only does it open the door to including an array of different styles—including Kimani’s burlesque angle—scheduling rehearsals is much easier.
“Logistically, nobody has to commit to a lot of time,” Hakseth says. “I teach dance classes at night, as do several of the other choreographers. We all have things we’re juggling.”
The choreographers aren’t collaborating directly. Instead, they’re each responsible for specific numbers in the show. Hakseth, for instance, is choreographing two of the show’s nine dance numbers, both of which feature Humpal’s Evan, the only actor in the show who gets to work with all five choreographers. In one of Hakseth’s numbers, Evan, his anger/alter ego and Lara use dance moves—and 90s-era mixtapes—to work through some emotions.
“It’s not literal,” explains Hakseth. “It’s more metaphorical. It’s about how Evan is trying to not be such an angry person. They’re just trying to connect.”
And even though this show offers Hakseth a bite-sized amount of the work she usually handles, the satisfaction derived from it has been just as potent.
“The most fun part of this is watching the actors connect to the choreography,” says Hakseth. “When it starts to look like you envisioned it, that’s the best.”
“Anger Dance” follows in Left of Left Center’s ongoing tradition of staging performances in nontraditional spaces. This weekend’s opening shows (April 21-23) take place in the basement of the Lakeview Moravian Church. Next weekend’s set (April 28-30) will be at the Express Yourself Dance Studio. For reservations, go here.
Aaron R. Conklin’s award-winning coverage of the Madison theater scene appears at madisonmagazine.com.