A Storytelling Dance Extravaganza by Trainor Dance
Artistic Director/Choreographer: Caitlin Trainor
Dancers: Mackenzie Allen, Beau Dobson, Jacob Goodhart, Allegra Herman, Emily Pacilio, Leah Wilks, Tiffany Mangulabnan
MC & Sound Designer: Gavin Price
In a culture of disconnection, where we are bombarded by incessant stimuli and choreographers are finding it increasingly difficult to entice audiences to the theater, Caitlin Trainor has devised an unusual experiment. Moderated by an MC, fantastical storytelling combines with music, dance, and audience participation in an exciting evening of physical theater. Trainor, driven by the issue of connecting with audiences in the digital age, creates a meaningful experience in hopes of revitalizing interest in live performance.
Trainor is no novice when it comes to unconventional experiments conducted in real time. In 2017”s Paint, spectators covered in plastic ponchos were invited to shoot paint balls at the performers, making a beautiful mess while also illustrating stark realities about herd mentality. During her solo Alphabet Soup, randomly selected audience members shuffle an iPod and dictate the order of movement phrases she performs. Now, Game Show Live! asks viewers to determine the veracity of stories they hear as the action is danced out in front of them. “I was thinking back to a time when we understood news to be truthful,” Trainor said in a pre-show interview. “Now we have the technology to fabricate anything.”
Believing that live theater can be serious and thought provoking but should also be fun and escapist, Trainor designed the premiere of Game Show Live! as a social experiment to discover how audiences will respond. Through a show of hands the audience votes fact or fiction after each story. Narratives are simple and range from the very funny to the very embarrassing. There is Emily who vomited into her purse while watching a performance at Lincoln Center, and Bo who’s grandmother shot the tail off a squirrel before nonchalantly returning to her cooking. Gavin Price, the show’s MC, determines majority ruling and a buzzer or bell indicates whether or not we are correct.
While the tone of the performance is light hearted and fun, Trainor’s keen eye for detail and seasoned expertise as a movement artist is present. The dance vignettes are full bodied and dynamic, communicating the idea that movement is relatable because we all have bodies and can understand on a visceral level what bodies moving in space convey. Trainor’s palette draws on a wide variety of classical, contemporary, and theatrical styles, and her use of gesture and line are clear and concise. During the story of fourteen year old Leah’s school lunch brawl, combat choreography unfolds in slow motion with comedic precision that underlies masterful control. Her highly skilled dancers are as comfortable dancing their stories as they are speaking them, and each performers’ unique personality is wonderfully engaging.
So what was the result of this interactive evening? Audience members, at first reticent, warm up to the game and hands shoot up more quickly with each story told. There are giggles and smatterings of conversation among strangers. As the game show ends and people file out of the black box theater at Barnard College, there are smiles and questions. Will this experiment draw new audiences? Time will tell. Trainor’s vision includes bringing Game Show Live! to other cities where she will include stories from people living in those communities. An intelligent, reflective, and thoughtful artist, Caitlin Trainor and her company, Trainor Dance, succeed in fashioning immersive adventures for audiences and exciting artistic risks that evolve the field of concert dance.