To all those Windy City white men who can’t—or won’t—dance, take comfort in knowing that roughly ten thousand miles away a group of Australian blokes also share your dilemma. Artistic director Gideon Obarzanek brings his critically acclaimed Melbourne-based modern-dance troupe Chunky Move to the Museum of Contemporary Art for three performances of the curiously offbeat “I Want to Dance Better at Parties.” Part docudrama featuring stories about men and their love-hate relationship with dance, part dance theater, part sociological examination of contemporary male attitudes towards movement, “I Want to Dance Better at Parties” is also a multimedia performance piece reinforcing the idea that movement can be the international antidote to male malaise. Depressed widower Phillip decides he wants to “dance better at parties” and uses ballroom dancing to transform mourning into movement. A physically demanding pas de deux between a male and female dancer is pure movement metaphor for the awkwardness that painfully self-conscious Franc feels when it comes to public dancing. And engineering brainiac Jack employs his background in digital codes to develop a kind of technical shorthand for dance annotation to help him better remember the steps learned in his Israeli folk dancing club.
These are just three of the five fascinating and absolutely true stories narrated by the men themselves—via video projections shown on five monolithic panels suspended above the stage—as six male and female professional dancer-actors interpret them down below through an amalgam of recognized dance styles and postmodern movement abstractions. Whatever you ultimately make of Chunky Move’s genre-defying antics, hopefully they will be as memorable as their name. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Chunky Move performs at MCA Theater, 220 East Chicago, (312)397-4010, through March 4.