The Hideout Theatre's Dance Dreams

The improv artists in this production do an impressive job of detailing the falling and rising fortunes of a ballet company

In position: Cast members of Dance Dreams (photo by Steve Rogers Photography)

The cast of Dance Dreams at the Hideout are some brave performers, indeed. The task set before them seems impossible (and perhaps even terrifying) in scope. They know they will be doing a completely improvised play based on the rise and fall of a dance company (à la Center Stage, Step Up, Fast Forward, Breakin', Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, ... you get the picture) from start to finish, complete with improvised dancing.

The only guide that these actors have through this forest of uncertainty is the ballet that the company is currently rehearsing, which is announced before the actors take the stage. The story the cast creates must mirror the major themes of the ballet at hand, which, on the night I attended, was A Mid­sum­mer Night's Dream. Here's what Rachel Austin, Linzy Beltran, Quinn Buckner, Katie Dahm, Rose Frezza, Kelly Hasandras, Margaret Hunsicker, Lisa Jackson, Marc Jalandoon, Nicholas Marino, Erin Molson, and Way Spurr-Chen put together, completely off the cuff:

The Kansas City Ballet's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is undergoing some growing pains. Despite rumors of treasure buried somewhere deep within its studio walls, a single benefactor's wealth controls the company's fate. Holly, a dedicated member of the board of directors, has taken it upon herself to seduce the rich eccentric in order to bring some artistic control back to the company (plus she loves money and lion leather) and take the pressure off of her dancers, who have enough to deal with as it is. There's the director, Madame Broussard, an Eastern bloc prima ballerina with the sixth sense, who keeps hearing a voice telling her to "look in the secret spot." Chuck, Oberon's understudy (he prefers Charles), is trying to find his passion, and he's coming to terms with the idea that it may not be dance that fulfills him. It may be treasure hunting. Or baking. Or Sarah, an über-chaste ingenue with a love for Jesus as big as her love for keto. And Reiley, after some expert love advice from her best friend and fellow dancer, Rhonda, has run off with her steamy-hot mister of a barista, leaving lonely Rhonda a matchmaker who never gets match-made.

While coaching Chuck on the art of Oberon's passion, Dan gets swept up by the spirit of the fairy king in rehearsal, and, in full view of the company and benefactor, kisses his understudy full on the mouth. The benefactor is so moved by the scene before him that he immediately puts Dan and Chuck in charge. Later, at a club called Ethics (because none exist there), Sarah tells Chuck (after some advice from Rhonda) that seeing him with someone else has made her rethink the "just friends" designation she had previously assigned to their relationship.

The company is at rehearsal when a mysterious veiled woman appears to Madame Brous­sard and leads our heroes to THE TREASURE! The only problem is that the ghost wants that cash money for herself, which prompts a laying-on-of-hands-style exorcism, which solidifies Chuck and Sarah's relationship, which incites Dan and the benefactor to elope, which gives way for the cute coffee jockey's double proposal (in romantic Kansas City Central Park) to Reiley and Rhonda – as bride and best friend. The whole story was unbelievably well-woven together and unmistakably Midsummer-inspired.

Along the way, there were some gut-busting one-liners, some serious moments, and a stage full of committed actors. I have to admit, it was impressive. Any acting coach will tell you that the very best performances happen in a space of hyper-awareness. The improv artists in Dance Dreams are not only listening to each other and responding in the present moment, they're creating major plot points and developing complex character arcs and building a focused story – a feat that would make Meisner's head explode. And here's the kicker: This play I just described was a one-night only, one-of-a-kind experience. This Saturday at 8pm, another tale of another company will be spun – but it'll be by the same group of kick-ass artists, and whatever the setup, the cast of Dance Dreams is gonna bring the punch lines.

Dance Dreams

The Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress, 512/443-3688,
Through Dec. 23
Running time: 1 hr., 25 min.

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Hideout Theatre, Dance Dreams, Rachel Austin, Linzy Beltran, Quinn Buckner, Katie Dahm, Rose Frezza, Kelly Hasandras, Margaret Hunsicker, Lisa Jackson, Marc Jalandoon, Nicholas Marino, Erin Molson, Way Spurr-Chen

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