Stand-up comedy and dance aren’t art forms that meet up often. A bit of wilfully bad dancing might slip into a comic routine now and then, or perhaps some parodic interpretive dance, but generally comedians tend to save their grooving for the after party.
What makes Nicky Marr’s show Little Dances remarkable is not that it’s a stand-up show about dance, it’s that it incorporates so much actual dancing into the routine. From the moment she bounds onto stage, Marr hardly stands still. Whether she’s busting night club moves or en pointe as a ballerina, she is in near constant motion.
Marr, a writer and performer with an eclectic background mostly in physical theatre, uses the show to explore the roles that various different forms of stylised movement have played in her life. From ballet lessons as a girl and the pretensions of working in contemporary dance, she expands her focus to include martial arts and theatre exercises and what she calls the “little dances”, the patterns of movement we find ourselves repeating in every day life. Things like the shuffle you do when waiting for something, the way you walk into a corporate meeting or the clumsy partner dance of two people in each other’s way.
Marr has a perceptive and wry observational style, coupled with gloriously sardonic delivery and the battleaxe air of a show business veteran. She does a lot of clowning but throughout you can see the physical discipline underlying her performance. Her parody comes from a place of knowledge and skill. Anyone who’s ever worked in the performing arts will particularly enjoy her acute satire.
While silliness and mockery of human pretension are high on the show’s agenda, Little Dances is not short on transcendent moments either. Some of the movement pieces are strikingly beautiful and there is quite some philosophical meat to Marr’s monologue too.
This kind of hybrid show doesn’t always hold up as comedy but Little Dances has the balance of humour, thoughtfulness and theatrical experimentation pretty much right. At roughly half an hour, it feels short, although Marr packs a great deal into it and how she performs such a physically demanding show with such boundless energy is a miracle. If anything, she could afford to space herself a little more.
Not your average comedy show, nor indeed much like anything else you’ve likely seen, Little Dances is a unique and very entertaining piece. There is a certain thrill to seeing a performer mash up established forms like this and carry it off with aplomb. Marr does and it’s a joy to behold.
La Mama presents
Written and performed by Nicky Marr
Venue: La Mama Courthouse
Dates: 27 Mar - 14 Apr, 2013
Tickets: $15 - $25
Part of the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival