Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks waltzes its way through dance instructor Michael Minetti (Todd McKenny) and mature aged student Lily Harrison’s (Nancye Hayes) turbulent and trying six week ‘learn to dance’ course. While the former plays an aging, gay, ex-Broadway chorus boy and the latter is a strong, ardent Baptist Minister’s wife, the two share one thing in common – they would die for dancing but they live alone. Michael and Lily take an instant dislike to one another. With Michael’s loud, brash and deceitful manner and Lily’s apparent conservatism, the play seems over before it has even begun. But add a touch of sympathy, a glance at a different perspective, and a lesson in humility, and an opportunity for companionship is sighted where it may not have been possible before.
A play that touches on issues of prejudice, deceit and ignorance, it does so with flair, but do not the title fool you. This is not a song-and-dance musical style show. In fact, the actual dancing is quite minimal and almost simplistic. The dancing is witty and charming, and complements the story rather than overpowering it as some musicals do.
Choreographer John O’Connell clearly understood that these characters’ need for dance is as basic as the human need for touch, for creativity and expression, for harmony between oneself and another. The dancing acts a social lubricant for their friendship, not a foundation or interpretation for it. However it is still skillful choreography, and it is a delight to watch these two masters of their form perform. Todd McKenny and Nancye Hayes are equally impressive actors as they are dancers. The artistry of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks is most fully realized in the skill of the actors. Their dynamic, vivacious and sprightly characterizations evoke both sympathy and repulsion. As one examines their own reactions to these clearly flawed characters we expose our own prejudices, allowing the audience to also learn a lesson in humility and see a new perspective as they bond with these characters.
While it could be argued that this play could just as easily be produced on film, (and certainly it will be, with playwright Richard Alfieri adapting Six Dance Lessons for screen and beginning production on the film later this year), the primary essence that ensures this story still makes for good theatre is the skillful live acting. It is a credit to McKenny and Hayes that their enchanting performances not only sustain the illusion and magic of live theatre for two hours, but that they also take the audience on an endearing journey of six weeks in their characters lives.
This sweet, simple story is full of both heartbreaking and fuzzy feel-good moments, and it’s the type of play that makes you want to go and visit your grandma or loved ones. Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks effortlessly unfolds with all the grace of the waltz, the passion of the tango and the fun of the foxtrot. A pleasure to watch.
Queensland Theatre Company presents
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks
By Richard Alfieri
Venue: Playhouse QPAC
Dates: 14 March - 31 March 2007
Previews: 14 - 15 March
Opening Night: 15 March
Tickets: A Reserve: $48 - $68 B Reserve: $38 - $58 26 & Under: $26 | On sale from 22 January 2007