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Dance Nation

From 25 critic and 115 member reviews
Members say: Ambitious, Edgy, Quirky, Clever, Great acting

About the show

Somewhere in America, an army of pre-teen competitive dancers plots to take over the world. And if their new routine is good enough, they’ll claw their way to the top at the Boogie Down Grand Prix in Tampa Bay. More…

In this pageant of ambition and ferocity, these young dancers have more than choreography on their minds, because every plié and jeté is a step toward finding themselves, and a fight to unleash their power.

Time Out New York

"Ferociously funny...Barron’s riotous, rattling, sensational new play...The kids are played by adults of varying ages...They sometimes break out of their time frame to share perspectives they will have years later. The effect of this doubleness is often hilarious—the actors’ dance skills also vary—but also poignant...Wondrous ensemble cast...Sharp direction...Has a pussy-power message, it is anything but fearless. It embraces fear, hugs it tight, and channels it into a queasy kind of triumph.” Full Review

The New York Times

“Conjures the passionate ambivalence of early adolescence with such being-there sharpness and poignancy that you’re not sure whether to cringe, cry or roar with happiness...Blazingly original and unsettlingly familiar...Cuts to the bone...A fearless cast, directed and choreographed with gloriously rough magic...The fact that the actresses playing these girls are adults...makes this latest work a memory play — and a reminder of how impossible it is to escape the way we were.” Full Review


“The seriousness with which each battle is approached is one of the things that makes playwright Barron’s exhilarating ‘Dance Nation’ so good, especially in director/choreographer Evans' spot-on production. The point isn't to watch the play hoping they win. You just want to see them all get out of it alive...The young girls - and one boy...are all played by adults...thus we see the parallels between the issues they face as children and those that await them in adulthood.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

“The playwright interweaves her very funny play with topics that some might find out of bounds...Be prepared to be challenged...By presenting us with a wildly non-realistic dance team, Barron can slather on layers of fun, satire and incisive social commentary. The wildly nontraditional casting works well, with director Lee Sunday Evans perfectly illuminating the lives of the characters and providing the amusingly artless choreography as well. The cast is universally fine." Full Review

Broadway Blog

“A non-apologetic, visceral play about girls growing into women...A 105-minute explosion of theatricality, draws from a multitude of performing styles with a primal underbelly thanks to director/choreographer Evans...But it is Barron’s supercharged script, wildly veering on adolescent emotional tangents, that catapults the play into a realm of exceptional theatricality...Evans doesn’t attempt to tame Barron’s script. Instead, she embraces it full-throttle.” Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

“A surprise, and a shock, and a delight...Not really about dancing. It is a funny, sharp and very blunt look at adolescent girls – portrayed by a terrific cast made up of actors as old as 60...At its most entertaining and revealing in between the actual dancing...There are also some unusually explicit scenes that present adolescence at its most awkward, adventurous and messy...Funny, and a little shocking, and a bit weird, but also, somehow, very stirring.” Full Review

The Wrap

“The dancers’ ages range from 20 to 60...Our preconceptions about these dancers will quickly change...And our keeping track of those changes is just one of the small, quirky pleasures of Clare Barron’s new play...Watching ‘Dance Nation’ unfold, you’re not immediately sure of anything, and it’s a delight to have your sense of reality completely thrown off several times in a matter of minutes...Talented ensemble.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

“If you were ever a 13-year-old girl, Clare Barron’s daring, raw ‘Dance Nation' will probably hit you hard. If you weren’t, the play might feel like strange, even somewhat disturbing terrain, but I’d urge you to venture in all the same...A brave, visceral, excitingly off-kilter barbaric yawp of a play. It’s angry and it’s sad. It’s brash and it’s funny. And it gets at something excruciatingly tender: the burden of modesty on young American women.” Full Review

Stage Left

"This hilarious and unsettling new play is refreshingly weird and thrillingly honest; I have never seen anything like it, and that is a purposeful and rewarding aim of Ms. Barron’s exquisite writing...This ordered chaos is expertly directed and choreographed by Lee Sunday Evans, who transposes the naturalistic force of Ms. Barron’s words to the stage amid flights of supernatural fancy, seamlessly managing tone throughout and crafting grounded and rounded characters." Full Review

Diandra Reviews it All

“Hilarious, thoughtful, and shows that being 13 is 100% a sentimental ride, but being a 13 year old girl can feel like an emotional odyssey...Barron’s writing is not only witty, but a confrontation of how society’s stapling of little girls as ‘too emotional’ or dismissing them as ‘feeling too much’...You will cry and you will laugh as you see a batch of 13 year old girls be so present in their heart and learn how to strengthen that presence.” Full Review

Show Showdown

"The fine cast captures the tail end of childhood very well without slopping into parody...'Dance Nation' is so loving of and respectful to its young, female characters...I had absolutely no trouble believing these grownups as the tweens they were playing...Not as cleanly structured as 'The Wolves,' and prone to more experimental leaps in form and presentation, 'Dance Nation' is, as a result, a little chillier and harder to follow at times. Still, it's wonderful, engaging, and worth a look." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"A strange and mysterious beast, loud and hilarious, dark and disturbing, presenting itself as one thing, while becoming quite another few things in its magical next movement. It’s highly entertaining and wondrously funny, while also being drenched in the sweat of something quite powerful and aggressive...'Dance Nation' is complex and unique, invigorating your soul and your heart, while forcing your brain to do some masterful dance flips to wrap itself around all the layers presented." Full Review


“Clare Barron’s sometimes hilarious, often bracing meditation on pre-adolescence...The award-winning playwright’s brilliant conceit, brought to full-bodied life by director/choreographer Evans, is to have these young ladies portrayed by actresses ranging from their 20s to their 60s...All of the girls are equally well-drawn...Conversely, Barron is slightly less successful with her other (admittedly more minor) characters, especially the two men in the play.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

“Perhaps the blazing highlight of this quirky, frequently compelling play is an extraordinary monologue by Ashlee...Evans’s staging unobtrusively and smoothly melds the play’s innumerable shifts in tone. The ensemble easily performs the sudden emotional leaps and fouettes that the playwright demands from them...I’ll bet that plenty of women will recognize their younger selves and their anxieties from those youthful times whirling around within Barron’s unusually intense sweet and sour drama." Full Review


“No play on the NY boards is fiercer or more original...A good deal more than it seems at first blush, largely because Barron dares to use nonconventional casting...Beyond the blood and gore, there are tender moments...There's much to enjoy in the ensemble acting...’Dance Nation’ escapes feeling like already explored territory. This is theater given a fresh edge and feeling. For the most part it works well enough to make it worth seeing.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Gritty language, situations, and brief but total nudity might deter some parents from taking their own 13-year-olds to see it. Given its stark candor, and its focus on emergent female empowerment, however, they may find the play's depiction of the kids' concerns both bracing and enlightening…'Dance Nation''s combination of realism and surrealism, satire and polemic, may not be to everybody's taste. I thought much of its humor unfunny, its structure clumsy, and its eccentric style…off-putting." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Under Lee Sunday Evans’ crisp direction, with her alluring choreography, and with the care of the all-female production team, the cast delivers authentic performances...It is best for the intensity and the diction of this chorus to be experienced firsthand by the audience. Some might find the tone exhilarating while some might find the rant a tad impolite. Either way, the performance is powerful and authentic and represents the beginning of the evolution into adulthood." Full Review

Daily Beast

"The play’s refreshingly confrontational feminism is underlined by the occasional, gliding presence of the moon, the female principle itself...Retreats from too much animosity and burrows instead into hearts and minds and ultimately provides individual portraits of the girls, and a picture of group dynamics that feel very real, if a little plodding and predictable. The presence of a boy remains a mystery throughout, but it’s heartening to hear him and Pat loudly voice their female allyship.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"What seems at first like a cutesy affectation soon comes across as the only sensible way of presenting a play about young people that includes nudity and frank discussions of puberty and sexuality...The director's skill with the material is especially fortunate, since the script has it ragged moments and dead ends, as well bits of humor that don't quite land...The cast is totally on their playwright's wavelength." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“It takes off regularly for the melodramatic and fanciful. Unfortunately, its flights don’t always land smoothly...Where ‘Dance Nation’ gets into trouble is when it has its characters wax anthemic...Evans is right in tune with the play’s humor...Evans is wise to tread lightly, not pandering to the easy laugh...'Dance Nation' intrigues with its probing into the heads of putative thirteen-year-olds sitting atop older bodies. But when it takes itself too seriously, it quickly loses its charm.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“Zuzu forgets her steps and freezes at a competition, setting up all kinds of trust and self-image conflicts that lack payoff. It's that kind of sloppiness that bothers me, along with the too-in-your-face sexuality...That said, Barron and Evans do conjure up some convincing moments...Barron has provocative things to say about how society turns many kids' formative years into nightmares...But teen bonding, peer shaming, and authority-figure bullying? You'll have a better time at 'Mean Girls.'" Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“Explores the adolescence of girls and one boy...However as a woman, I was lost in translation...The acting is well done...Evans’s direction, keeps this piece moving and her choreography is perfectly awful...A lot of laughter by men and not so much by women. Maybe that is because we really do not want to relive this...‘Dance Nation’ felt like sabotage, since this is written by a women, but who is it for?” Full Review

New York Daily News

“Fearless and funny but frustrating...Avoids the typical pitfalls when adult actors play pre-teens...The work is bold, with ample profanity and flashes of nudity. But it trips up because it's too freewheeling for its own good...Subjects are raised and quickly abandoned. The tone shifts willy nilly...It's okay for a play to be messy, but Barron's work self-sabotages...Despite flaws, the show is uniformly terrifically acted...Most effective and eloquent when it's silent.” Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"The little moments where 'Dance Nation' captures adolescence beautifully are strong and achingly poignant...But the play doesn’t succeed in either striking an emotionally realistic tone or using its stylization to generate insight, and the characters didn’t feel whole to me. And for a play about power and competition, it often feels physically timid; I wish Barron and Evans had found a more compelling way to stage the compelling questions 'Dance Nation' raises." Full Review


“An unsatisfying synthesis of satire, allegory and feminism...More of an agenda driven fantastical tract rather than a well-crafted play...Evans faithfully presents Barron’s alienating vision with flair...The talented, likeable and distinctive company all offer vigorous characterizations...'Dance Moms' might appear to have been an inspiration...The simple themes of that program here have been forcefully infused with sociological trimmings and activist sensibilities for little theatrical impact.” Full Review

Exquisite, Great writing, Hilarious, Raunchy, Must see

See it if You want to laugh, love feminist amazing theatre, honestly this is one of my favorite things I have seen recently! Go see it!

Don't see it if You are made uncomfortable by acknowledging that children have sexualities or think periods are gross and don’t want to confront that.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Refreshing, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoyed The Wolves. Want to see a funny, sad, and powerful depiction of pre-teen girls' lives

Don't see it if You are easily offended by profanity, nudity, or talk about bodily functions

Also I really enjoyed The Wolves - but loved this show. Loved the creative ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing

See it if you love a hysterical, off-kilter, endlessly inventive, and painfully true story of being an adolescent young woman navigating maturity.

Don't see it if you want your theater well-behaved and unoriginal.

Clever, Intense, Profound, Entertaining, Great writing

See it if you're interested in a sharply drawn cutting edge work that is both hilarious and poignant in its depiction of the young female experience.

Don't see it if Are offended by foul-mouthed pre-teens (as imagined by the 30ish author).

Absorbing, Great writing, Hilarious, Resonant, Must see

See it if you live for Dance Moms drama or want to see a hilarious and relevant new play by a female playwright about women.

Don't see it if you're uncomfortable with discussions of bodies and all the things that preteen girls go through.

Hilarious, Intelligent, Clever, Quirky

See it if You’d enjoy an insightful satire of Dance Moms exploring girls finding themselves & their power through dance.

Don't see it if Nudity, rough language, natural body functions, etc. bother you. Also girls played by women of all ages, except teen. Dance Moms on steroids

Clever, Delightful, Refreshing, Quirky, Intelligent

See it if You're interested in a nuanced glimpse into the life of a teenage girl (which often carries out into adulthood)

Don't see it if You're not OK with the word p***y

Fiendishly smart, Stylized, Surreal, Hilarious, True

See it if you want a palate cleanser after all the Broadway (and Off Broadway) schlock that's been shoved down your throat recently

Don't see it if You hate vaginas. This play is about vaginas, and periods, and bodies, and dreams, and how we treat them. And it's GLORIOUS.

Clever, Great acting, Hilarious, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you have an arts background, you like kids, you're young at heart, you're willing to be challenged at the theatre

Don't see it if you are averse to coarse language, or if you are expecting a piece of fluff, it's really fun - but it's also quite profound - I loved it

Edgy, Hilarious, Original, Visceral, Nostalgic

See it if You're ready to embrace raw, feminine power. Bonus chuckles and poignant moments if you were a female dancer in your youth.

Don't see it if You don't like frank talk, nudity, or womanhood.

Refreshing, Masterful, Entertaining

See it if You like smart writing, excellent acting, and creative direction. Also see it if you are interested in girls dealing with growing up.

Don't see it if You don't care about girls or need a straightforward plot.

Also It is so rare to see girls treated as full human beings with desires a... Read more Read less

Funny, Great acting, Refreshing, Resonant, Ambitious

See it if You enjoy a very original, funny and touching play that expresses the hopes, fears, imagination and confusion of adolescent girls.

Don't see it if You are embarrassed by or unwilling to hear about the things you know young girls think and talk about.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing

See it if you want to see a highly original play with a stellar cast and innovative staging. Claire Barron is a writer to keep your eye on!

Don't see it if you have no interest in adolescent girls slowly discovering their sexuality.

Intense, Raunchy

See it if A pussy riot embodied in 13 year old girls. Explores societal and biological changes women endure with the world and each other.

Don't see it if Seeing menstrual blood or hearing "pussy" abhor you. Mental health issues are triggering. Women's issues don't interest you.

Also Ticket from '35 and under' program for $25.

Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Relevant, Resonant

See it if If you want to see the play that is the most of this moment.

Don't see it if You're not into women as they actually are, rather than as you want them to be.

Also Like I stated above, when someone asks me what the socio-cultural temp... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Absorbing

See it if you liked The Wolves & want a daring, shrewd, original, poignant story of preadolescence played by the most earnest & fearless cast anywhere

Don't see it if you'll be uncomfortable w/a stark, unrelenting portrayal of pre-teen girls, w/all the angst, awkwardness, blood & unfiltered feelings intact

Great writing, Edgy, Relevant, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if You want to see a raw edgy look at what it’s like to be a teen age girl. Sweet. Shocking. Insightful. Sad. Honest. Beautiful.

Don't see it if You’re a misogynist or have no empathy.

Bold, Visceral, Original, Funny

See it if Wonderful take on the joys and terrors of being a 13 year old girl. But the girls are all portrayed by adults ages 22 to 60.

Don't see it if It's got profanity, naked body parts, menstruation, awkwardness, and most of the girls are not very good dancers.

Also I thought this show was right on, more so than "Wolves". Several "ah-h... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Delightful, Edgy, Epic, Great writing

See it if You liked The Wolves, you are a fan of stories about women

Don't see it if You’re apathetic, you don’t like when Theatre is slightly absurd

Intelligent, Resonant, Intense

See it if Original plays are your thing. This is not your average dance play, not even close. These young adolescent girls are fierce and feral.

Don't see it if If you would rather not revisit or visit the mind of young teenage girls. For that was where where the truly wild things lurk.

Do you want to know what 13 year olds talk about when you're not in the room?

See it if no holds barred/hilarious view of girls on competitive dance team dealing w/ adolescent changes & suffocating pressures

Don't see it if some of the over-the-top monologues simply don't work; feminist message by end hits you over the head

Also One of high points: use of vampirish dance sequence, redolent of Micha... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Dizzying, Refreshing, Resonant

See it if you want to see something by turns shocking, funny, disconcerting, sad, challenging, hopeful and much more.

Don't see it if you're want something a little more coherent. Despite the simple plot this is a big, sprawling show that succeeds despite many failings.

Ambitious, Exquisite, Great acting, Profound, Riveting

See it if you're a fan of plays like The Wolves, which explore themes of femininity and coming of age in a refreshing and innovative onstage style.

Don't see it if you have a distaste for moments of the absurd, or are offended by nudity, profanity, and the like.

Ambitious, Intense, Resonant, Original, Important

See it if you want a wholly original work from a fresh daring voice. A sobering look at how women's wings are slowly, imperceptibly clipped by society

Don't see it if you want a fast-paced show. Despite its upbeat title, the production moves slowly. Wish the director had been defter with this powerful work

Ambitious, Absorbing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You are interested in women and women’s place in the world. You like abstract plays.

Don't see it if If subtlety is your thing.

Cast & Creatives (16)