Saturday, March 5, 2016
I went to a tech rehearsal for Dance Theater of Orlando's presentation of Touch, The Human Experience. The Dance Theater of Orlando is funded by ME Dance a not-for-profit organization founded by Marshall Ellis in 2011. The ME Theater is located at 1300 La Quinta Drive Orlando Florida which is 2 short drive so of the Florida Mall. I arrived just as Alex Schudde Ellis was opening the theater. The dancers stretched in preparation of the run through of the show.
Touch follows the lives of twelve people who are dealing with their vulnerable lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during the Great Depression. In the pre-show, video was projected of a UPA era cartoon that encouraged people to invest in the stock market. What followed was a montage of black and white photos from the Great Depression. The minimal set gave hints of a shanty town. A narrator related the history as President Roosevelt created New Deal programs to help raise the country from it poverty.
As the story unfolds, we are first introduced to Billy (Abram Garcia) and Diamond Jackie (Alex Schudde), the lead couple whose story is interwoven throughout the show to showcase how they handle their relationship struggle through trying times after Billy develops a fascination for the Fish Lady (Sara Rose Smith). The dynamic chemistry portrayed during their introductory dance will have the audience fall in love with these characters and cheer for the recuperation of their relationship throughout the struggles, but only time will tell what will become of their relationship.
As the show continues, the audience is continually introduced to a cast of new characters who all hold endearing traits that evolve through the show as they each try to figure out how to survive the Great Depression and find their true selves. The wide assortment of personalities include: Vibes Man (Christopher McKenzie) who is searching for his lost soul; Frank and Mary (Nathan Greenberg and Lauren Sherwood), the wide-eyed, innocent and bashful coming-of-age couple in the countryside; and many others who represent different social and economic classes.
As all of their lives come together, there is one inevitable factor that continues to motivate them to push through: the human touch. Despite their own struggles, they make an effort to help raise each other up it ultimately leads to each character reawakening. Each song from Bruce Springsteen is specifically selected to represent the emotions and current hardships of the characters, which creates a smooth, consistent transition between all of the different stories as they blend together.
Charlie Chaplin as The Dictator filled the theater with his speech that stressed peace and compassion. After seeing so many images of suffering during the depression his speech stressed that war is never the answer. I have seen the Dictator on TV, but seeing it larger than life certainly makes an impression like OZ's visage in smoke.
By the last number, it becomes clear that love conquers all. All twelve dancers filled the stage with their energy. Lauren Sherwood leaped and flew with endless grace supported by a male dancer. This is when dance seems magical as it defies gravity's pull. Couples united and hope endured as Springsteen's music roared it's approval.
Mark Your Calendars.
Touch, the Human Experience runs...
March 4-6 at 8:30pm and March 11-13 at 8:30pm
ME Theater 1300 La Quinta Drive Orlando FL 32809
Tickets are $20