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Stam-pede - a diverse dance show for kids

by Robert Abrams
January 8, 2012
Symphony Space
2537 Broadway
New York, NY 10025
(212) 864-1414
A neighbor had tickets to Stam-pede at Symphony Space, a show presented at 3 pm and intended for small kids. She couldn't use the tickets because the start time of the show was moved an hour earlier at the last minute, which conflicted with her three year old son's nap. (If you don't have kids, trust me, you don't want to interfere with a kid's nap time.)

Fortunately, I was free. I took my three year old daughter to the show. She clapped enthusiastically after the end of each company's performance.

The show featured Chicago Tap Theatre, Parijat Desai Dance Company, SLURP by Adam Metzger and Darrah Carr Dance in the first act. The second act featured Maya de Silva & Flamenco Revolucion, David Parker & The Bang Group, Caleb Teicher & Company and Dorrance Dance.

This show was an example of exactly what I have been searching for: serious, but kid-friendly dance, offered on a weekend afternoon, a start time which is much more practical for kids, and parents, than the typical 8 pm curtain. I thought the dancing we saw was high quality. Perhaps not as challenging as some performances, but always the genuine article. The tap rhythms had clarity and development. Parijat Desai Dance Company's blend of Indian and Modern dance was new and appealing. In their "Songs to Live For", I noted precise, synchronized ankle movements. With white flowing outfits, "Songs to Live For" was a swooping celebration of life. SLURP by Adam Metzger's "The First Stitch" featured tap dancing with distinct patterns of rhythms. I also liked the way the choreography played with directions. Parts of the work featured a dancer in tap shoes and two others in soft shoes. I found it oddly appealing. This number ended with a big finale, and then one last stomp. One dance even featured live music, so this may have been a kids show, but they were going all out.

I am not going to go into as much detail about the dances as I usually strive for, in part because my daughter kept insisting on taking my notepad and pen during the performance. She looked like she was taking notes. Also, I was watching her as much as the stage. Suffice it to say that I liked the performances, and I would return to another one of these shows regardless of who is performing.

There are a few things to note that don't normally come up in a dance review.

Symphony Space provided booster seats to help kids see the stage better. These were a hard plastic, but my daughter sat without complaint, so the booster seats go in the plus column. If you have a small child, pick one up as you enter, especially since there is no extra charge for the booster seats. It would have been even better if the seats in the house were more steeply pitched, to help kids get a clearer view, but this is a problem common to many theatres and overall the sight lines were fine, except if someone rather tall happens to sit right in front of the child.

We arrived at Symphony Space about five or ten minutes before the show was due to start. The only seats available were all the way in the back. This was okay, although I did have to move my daughter one seat over when a tall adult sat in front of her - we made it work. This presents a dilemma. If you want seats up front, you should get there early (since the show had open seating). But if you get there early, your child may not last through the show.

The Symphony Space program had a color page where you could match staff members to animals. My daughter spent some time before the show started naming the animals. Another one for the plus column. If you are planning a kids show, definitely put something kids can interact with in the printed performance program.

The kids were largely well behaved, but because this was a kids show, if a kid were to start crying or want to leave early, it felt like it would have been okay. We need art spaces like this, where real art and real kids can come together.

The works were generally on the shorter side, which is probably a good choice for kids, but the longer works held my daughter's attention too. Some of the time, my daughter looked like she was imitating the dancers' arm movements. Sometimes she clapped with the music.

I expected the show to last an hour, but that turned out to be the end of the first act. About an hour in, my daughter started asking to go home. Considering she is only three, I think she did rather well. I would have liked her to have seen the other companies, but even with just the first hour, I felt we had received great value for the ticket price.

Stam-pede was presented by Gotham Arts Exchange and Symphony Space with organizational support also from Zia Artists. Here's hoping more shows like Stam-pede are organized.
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