Twin Bill Theater’s Dancing Lessons: Little Dancing Lots of Lessons

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  • August 24, 2019

The invitation I received promised that Dancing Lessons is about the healing power of love. Through research, I learned that it is about Ever Montgomery, a science professor with special needs and Senga Quinn, a dancer with an injury that threatens her career.

It sounded interesting enough so off to Power Mac Center Spotlight I went with my friend Pauline Lagdameo who just returned from London raving about the gazillion plays she watched.

“What if I don’t like this one?,” she worried about Dancing Lessons.

This pair covered the dancing while the other was in charge of the lessons

A few lines in, I immediately knew she would love it. Because I was enjoying myself. The dialogues were witty and warm. We laughed and we were touched. Most of all, we learned.

The 95-minute play was packed with lessons. Surprisingly, none about dancing. It was heavy on autism. But more than referring to the condition, the scenes communicated the value of vulnerability, honesty, connection, courage, and most of all, respect.

This is my favorite part. I love how Senga coaxed Ever out of his comfort zone. She was able to make him face his fear not through mockery, deceit, or use of force but with respect, by allowing him to move at his own pace

So did love heal Ever and Senga? I can’t tell you that. But Dancing Lessons surely healed me of some of my cynicism. It was a respite from all the negative noise around, a reminder of the good.

Randy Villarama was brilliant as Ever. “A lot of TEDTalks, talking to some people who have Aspergers, Google, Í watched documentaries, but some of the mannerisms just came out from the text,” he enumerates how he prepared for his role.

Twin Bill Theater’s Joseph Matheu and Francis Matheu flank actors Randy Villarama and Jill Peña

Director Francis Matheu said they also talked to members of the Autism Society Philippines.

“We just wanted to be as truthful as possible. We wanted to make Ever as dignified and well-represented,”injects Jill Peña who was so relatable as Senga.

Behind the scenes, Kayla Teodoro put so much thought into the set design. “The whole set is made of wood. I don’t know if you noticed the progression. From the dance floor, you end up in Senga’s apartment,” she points out. The stage is shaped like a recorder made of bamboo which was inspired by the one moment where Senga and Ever felt most comfortable with each other.

Set designer, Kayla Teodoro

Also away from the spotlight but equally crucial in the play are JM Cabling (choreographer), Arvy Dimaculangan (sound designer), Joseph Matheu (lighting and technical director), Joyce Garcia (video graphics designer), and Ian Cartalaba (costume stylist/consultant).

The play opens in Senga’s messy apartment in New York

The performance would not have been possible without Sofia Marteja (company manager and deputy stage manager), Enzon Canon (stage manager), Benjor Catindig (graphic and layout artist), Karlo Miguel (associate production manager), Addie (marketing associate), Jake Pagulayan (company photographer and videographer), Elyandre Miguel Dagli (photographer), Klaudine Guerrero (audio spinner), Erico Sy (stagehand), Mike Lopez (stagehand), and of course, the tireless and ever-passionate Toots Tolentino (PR and Publicity).

The laudable script is by American playwright, author, and film and television writer, Mark St. Germain.

Dancing Lessons premiered in 2014 in Massachusetts. Performed by theater companies in Connecticut, Rochester, San Diego, Sta. Barbara, San Francisco, Vermont, Ohio, and Florida.

It is first presented in Asia via Twin Bill Theater, an independent theater company that focuses on producing contemporary and socially relevant themed theater productions. Some of the issues they have featured are bullying, substance abuse, mental health, and cancer.

You can still catch Dancing Lessons tonight August 24, Saturday at 8:00 PM at Power Mac Center Spotlight, Ayala Malls Circuit in Makati.

For tickets, log on to Ticketworld or call (02) 8919999.

The social media post of my friend Pauline Lagdameo, an accomplished chef who I believe is a theater critic in the making. Clearly, her worry about not liking the play was all for naught.

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