Review: Dad Dancing, Battersea Arts Centre

“Dave hasn’t danced since a disco in Nairobi in 1984”

Do you dread the moment your dad gets up on the dancefloor, or do you celebrate the time being spent together? Do you cringe at the moves he busts out, or give thanks that he’s able to do them? Do you despair at the lack of rhythm that seems to accompany fatherhood, or appreciate the specialness of the beat of his own drum? I think few of us could honestly say we’d answer the latter for any of the above but such questions, and more, lie at the heart of devised dance piece Dad Dancing which encourages us to reconsider.

Created and developed by three dance students looking to engage their fathers in their chosen craft beyond the standard attendance at the end-of-year showcases, this beautifully warm-hearted show has a most beguiling quality. Exploring not only their own relationships with their fathers, who appear alongside them here at the Battersea Arts Centre, they’re helped by a large supporting cast who bring their own father/child experiences to bear. Thus a whole spectrum of experience stands before us, asking what it means to be a son or daughter, to be a father, to be a dancer.

There’s a bittiness which is the hallmark of pretty much any devised show but equally a tautness which prevents Dad Dancing from ever being too indulgent. The women – Rosie Heafford, Alexandrina Hemsley and Helena Webb – use the full, expressive range of their contemporary dance skill to speak of what they’ve longed to say, the fathers – Adrian, Andy and David – bring their unique sense of movement which may be a mite more ungainly but no less eloquent in its willingness to participate in their childrens’ world, and the small but vital contributions from the chorus have a real potent power.

So for every endearing anecdote and expression of love, there’s also a reminder that not everyone has the same positive experience with their fathers, a sadly simple truth but one which punches with huge emotional force in the achingly beautiful segments where the 26-strong company combine to speak of their dads. But ultimately it is the dancing that shines through, whether rocking out to ‘Children of the Revolution’ or getting us all up for a joyous finale to ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ where the choreographed routine dissolves into the warm embrace of a dancefloor where we can all indulge in some dad dancing ourselves. Beguilingly good fun.

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 15th November
Photo: Zoe Manders

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