Off-Broadway’s New Hit Play; Clare Barron’s Dance Nation

by Michael Mahany | 5/18/2018 5:56 PM

Dance Nation at Playwright’s Horizon. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.


With all the focus this month leading up to the TONY® Awards on June 10th, it’s easy to forget about what’s happening, both literally and figuratively, Off-Broadway. Over at Playwright’s Horizon, the award winning Off-Broadway company revered by the theatre community, a new and profound play is taking a larger look at what it’s like to be a preteen girl— through the lens of competition dance.


“It’s a play about a team of thirteen year old dancers who are competing for a national title,” Playwright Clare Barron said in Playwrights Horizon’s press video. “It’s also a play about women, ambition, and desire.”



Dance Nation began previews on April 13th and officially opened last week. The play, according to its Playbill synopsis, tells the story of, “an army of pre-teen competitive dancer’s plots to take over the world. And, if their new routine is good enough, they’ll claw their way to the top at the Boogie Down Grand Prix in Tampa Bay.”


The group of young dancers— portrayed by adults— focuses on more than just the desire to win at the competition, however. Through the point of view of grown actor/dancers playing pre-teens, the concentrated themes of the play are brought to light even more robustly.

“The thirteen year olds are played by adult actors, and that’s because, as much as the play is about these thirteen year olds and their specific journeys and stories, it’s also about the way we carry what happens to us when we’re thirteen throughout the rest of our lives,” Barron said.


The show’s immediate success has already garnered it an extension through June 17th.


Lee Sunday Evans. Photo Credit: Jessica Nash


Obie Award winning director and choreographer Lee Sunday Evans is responsible for staging the movement and dance in the play.


“Lee does this incredible job of building this choreography that’s really complex and beautiful, but really born out of the actor’s bodies. I love watching them dance, it’s like my favorite part.” Barron said of her play’s director and choreographer.


Evans is also known for her work directing Off-Broadway’s [Porto], The Public Theatre’s mobile version of The Winter’s Tale, Lincoln Center 3’s Bull In A China Shop, and more.



To bring dance more to the forefront of these character’s lives, Evans, throughout the rehearsal process, brought the cast together to move.


“We’re dancing two hours a day, I feel like it brings us together as an ensemble,” Barron said.


“And also,” she added, ”weirdly, gives the cast some of the experience that the girls are going through; the pressure of learning a number.”


Clare Barron. Photo Credit: Marc J. Franklin


Dance Nation, while honing in on “female ambition, ferocity, and unabashed preteen girlhood”,  features a diverse cast and an almost all female creative team, lead by Barron and Evans. The play stars: Purva Bedi, Eboni Booth, Camila Canó-Flaviá, Ellen Maddow, Christina Rouner, Thomas Jay Ryan, Dina Shihabi, Lucy Taylor, and Ikechukwu Ufomadu.


For tickets and information on Dance Nation visit


Michael Mahany is a writer, host, and serves as the New York City Correspondent for Dance Network. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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