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'Dancing Lessons': A Play On Dancing, Love, And Autism

Twin Bill Theater’s eye-opening rom-com 'Dancing Lessons' is all about overcoming the fear of being different and the strength of embracing one’s uniqueness

We are all where we are meant to be, and if it means being a dancer who has to teach dance lessons in your own living room, then so be it.

This is where Mark St. Germain’s play Dancing Lessons begins, at the center of Senga Quinn’s apartment where she and her neighbor Ever Montgomery stand face to face for what would be an encounter that would change both their lives. The banter between Senga, played by Jill Peña, and Randy Villarama’s character, Ever, flowed easily and naturally, it almost felt like the audience was eavesdropping on the two. 

Randy Villarama as Ever Montgomery and Jill Peña as Senga Quinn in Dancing Lessons | Photo by Jaypee Maristaza | From Twin Bill Theater's Facebook page

Dancing Lessons starts off with Ever’s interest in learning how to dance in the most inconspicuous way possible (just to pass off as being as “normal” and average as can be), but it’s unmistakable at the end of the play who was being taught what. Ever, a professor of geosciences at the New York Institute of Technology, may be socially awkward, geeky, and somewhat odd, but he was living more fully than Senga, the successful Broadway dancer who seemed in control of herself and her life.

The romantic comedy is a littered with pop culture references, and the two characters’ exchange about musical theater elicited snickers amongst the frequent theater-goers in the audience. But the highlight of the play were the lead actors’ deft portrayals of their roles—Senga and Ever’s defensiveness playing against both their vulnerabilities, or one’s world-weariness contrasting against another’s innocence. Senga’s stubborn willfulness to overcome her physical challenge reflected beautifully against Ever’s own inner struggles and efforts to get past his fear of social intimacy. Despite their best attempts at deflecting the growing attraction between them, the viewers can’t help but root for them to just “get on with it.”

The play is as entertaining as it is informative, in particular about Ever’s autism, and perhaps even about Senga’s own emotional and psychological issues. Nevertheless, it is never preachy; there is only always patient understanding. Overall, this romcom brings a refreshing insight on what it’s like to be different and the lengths we go to just to belong, on the beauty of otherness, the courage to accept our fragile brokenness as humans, and the transformative power of love and compassion.

Produced by Twin Bill Theater, Dancing Lessons is directed by Francis G. Matheu, with choreography by JM Cabling and set design by Kayla Teodoro. Catch its last few runs on August 21 to 24, 8:00 PM at the Power Mac Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati.

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