GROOVALOO is a dance theater performance currently being held at the Union Square Theater at 100 E 17th street. But that simply signifies where it is, what Groovaloo means is an entirely different matter. In essence it is a dance troupe, a hodgepodge of dancers from different backgrounds, both in their personalities and technical styles.
The performance of Groovaloo tracks the lives of the performers, letting the audience see into the hearts and minds of these dancers, most often revolving around how they found the stage. These stories display the courage to pursue a creative lifestyle, even if their families said it was a foolish choice.
A prime example is co-creator Bradley “Shooz” Rapier’s story. He was in medical school when he won first place in a talent competition in Canada, and had to make a choice, doctor or dancer. Another prevalent character, Al Star, played by Caity Lotz in the performance this past Sunday, is a former ballet dancer that couldn’t break free of routine and improvise. Her character in the show is someone who loves dance but is scared of not knowing what to do.
Often a sense of personal empowerment could be felt through the dancer's exotic and precise movements. The Groovaloos threaded intricate seat pieces with other dance numbers that appeared improvised. While the more structured sections have the voiceover stories, it is often in the dancer’s freestyle moments that why they chose a life of dance is most apparent.
In 1999 the Groovaloos were created by dancer/choreographer, Rapier, and with the help of director/co-creator, Danny Cistone, this show based on their lives was born. At first a loose collection of freestyle dancers, the Grooveloos vast accomplishments in all aspects of dancing and acting have pushed the troupe to the forefront of freestyle dance. Charlie “Vzion” Schmidt, who delivered the spoken-word portions in the show, has danced with Michael Jackson, Usher, and as an Ipod dancer. Teresa “Rag Doll” Espinosa has choreographed for Missy Eliot, Rihanna, and Miley Cyrus. These are just a few examples of the troupe’s impressive body of work.
Another persistent theme in the show revolves around the older dancer, Steven “Boogieman” Stanton who dances across the stage with a cane for most of the performance. Stanton was a innocent bystander shot in the back at a nightclub shootout. He was told he might never walk again. Stanton struggles to reclaim movement, and his ultimate victory over adversity bookends the performance.
As a theater performance about dance, Groovaloo was spectacular. Every number, and there were 29 of them, was perfectly executed. From an assembly line of metal-face robots pulling one dancer into the world of routines, to two dancers looking through a mock mirror and portraying each other with near perfection. The performer’s natural skill pulsates in every set piece in the show, and the mashup beats and mixes are all fitting and well integrated.
How much a viewer enjoys Groovaloo really depends on one’s expectations before walking through the door. If you love the b-boy culture, freestyle dance, and hip hop, then this show is a must see. It contains moments of genius at every turn, and never feels repetitive for the entirety of the show. However, if you walk in expecting a complicated story with twisting drama, you may be disappointed. Every story the characters told are of reality, these are the stories of the performers lives. When they are shown through dance with a voice-over spoken narrative they can feel one-dimensional. What the stories do excellently however is allow the performers to put their lives on display with the movements of their bodies, and the audience can feel the sincerity behind each story of progression, acceptance, and courage.
Groovaloo is playing regularly through Jan. 3rd. Tickets can be purchased here. The troupe will also be performing as a special guest on FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance on Dec 16th.