Last night, we were swept underground into the cave-like Liberty Hall, the chic club venue in the basement of the Ace Hotel, for the first of three performances by choreographer and performer Ani Taj Neimann’s company, The Dance Cartel. The show is called OntheFloor—a fitting name for a participatory dance experience that considers performing on a stage snobby and passé.
An eclectic crowd trickled in to the show’s pre-party, somewhat cautiously handling their drinks and scanning the room to see if anyone else was as eager to break it down to the DJ’s nostalgic 90s mix as they were.
Ms. Neimann herded the antsy spectators into a small room and flipped open an iPad, claiming that this was the way in which she was going to revolutionize live dance.
“Are we seriously going to watch this whole thing on an iPad? This is weird,” said an annoyed guy behind us.
Soon, the dancers emerged in Cirque du Soleil-style mesh leotards and brightly colored stockings. The crowd stood somewhat tense as the vulgar lyrics of Azealia Banks blared through the cramped space.
The show’s mission was to make dance more accessible to the audience, and that it did. Within minutes, the formerly tense crowd resembled rowdy teenagers at a concert, whooping and yelling as the dancers passed between us.
Most of the music was grounded in Latin-style beats, which Neimann told us she had picked up on a research trip to Salvador de Bahia in Brazil. Some pieces were overtly sexual, including women dancing “up on that pole” as instructed by the lyrics to the accompanying song, Akon’s “I Wanna F*** You.” Others were just downright strange (one dancer stopped to paint her nails mid-performance while another fed Doritos to the crowd)—but none were modest or boring.
The MC yelled, “What the hell is going on?” We were wondering the same. During the three “breaks,” the dancers would simply push the crowd together, urging everyone to join in.
As “Teach Me How to Dougie” came on, a notorious favorite among bat mitzvah attendees, the crowd transformed into no more than a group of horny teenagers, grabbing the nearest person and pulling them in close. Nobody in the crowd was simply standing by—everyone was captivated and followed suit.
“I love this—what a release,” one audience member told The Observer as climbed over a couch to the dance floor.
By the performance’s end, Ms. Neimann was still lively and jovial, bouncing around the party still in her costume.
As for the man who made the comment about the iPad, he remained among the last on the dance floor.
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