A petite young woman motions me to a great seat in the venue. Her accent is subtle, but it pushes through with the pronunciation of some words. I continue to contemplate her origins as I settle on a place to sit. Moments later this same woman is in front of a considerate crowd reciting the announcements for the evening. Stark white light causes her hair to glow with a glossy sheen of red. With the entrance of two latecomers, she starts the announcements over from the beginning. Once they are seated another woman staggers in and finds an empty chair on the third row. The red-haired woman does not start from the beginning this time, but she makes sure to address the last seated woman often as she repeats her announcement mantra. “Thank you for coming to see ponydance theatre company at Motorco Music Hall in Durham, NC for the American Dance Festival 2013.” The show has begun, and by the end of the night she will have us plugged in and reciting in unison “2013!”   

ponydance made their American Dance Festival debut and US premiere of Where did it all go right? at Motorco Music Hall. This charismatic quartet entertained with edgy, clever, seductive, and comedic content through performance-theater and dance. Where did it all go right? recalled scenes from pubs, clubs, and bars and offered audiences the space to be passive or active participants on this journey. Starting off with a distorted remake of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” a female-male duet catapulted audiences into the bar scene by acting out the possibilities of perception induced by the right concoction of music, lights, and alcohol.

Hosted by Motorco, a music venue and bar constructed to accommodate traditional performance settings ponydance chose to forego the stage and instead created an alternative performance space near the entrance. Half of the audience was situated in strategically placed chairs and bar stools immediately visible as you walked into the venue. The remaining onlookers occupied black bleacher seating to the left and right of the performance space. Unoccupied space between the bar and the first row of chairs designated the performance space, and although this space appeared relatively small to accommodate dance, it was nonetheless the space where magic happened.

The group did not limit their performance commentary to the intimate performance space. They meandered through the audience and seating arrangement, occasionally pulling audience members into the performance through direct address and touch. They spoke, pulsed, gyrated, elongated, and pirouetted to a collection of pop music methodically interwoven with moments of silence, text, and gesture. It was an engaging show for adult audiences, and a masterful combination of charm of venue, content, and company. ponydance offered audiences feel good time with laughter, performance, and participation. Drinks were optional.

ponydance was founded in Ireland in 2005. Known for blending imagination and entertainment, they have strategically carved out a unique voice for comedy, dance, and theatre. Attracted to the potential of non-conventional spaces, they perform in cafes, town halls, and bars. Their website and online materials do not designate one founder or entity responsible for birthing the brainchild that is ponydance, but Leonie McDonagh guides the reins as Artistic Director. Touring around the world, ponydance’s work speaks to an affinity for collaboration, shared responsibility, comedy, and community.