From the first few minutes of the show, I knew Clare Barron’s new play “Dance Nation” deserved its hype. In an opening scene, a group of dancers stands at attention at the center of their small studio in Liverpool, Ohio; arms straight at their sides, faces frozen in abject terror, waiting for Dance Teacher Pat to tell them to move their bodies. This is a team of 13-year-old competition dancers heading to the Star Power USA competition, vying for a chance to make it to nationals in Tampa, Florida. (Along their way are stops in Akron, Ohio, and the “Boogie Down Grand Prix”). In this scene, a dancer asks to leave briefly to use the bathroom, and flees the stage like she’s committed a crime. “Sorry,” she stammers, and then resumes her post on the dance floor.
“Dance Nation” by Clare Barron. Photograph by Joan Marcus.