century: la fête—a review

image courtesy of Century Ballroom

Last show of La Fête is this weekend, February 13.

By Michael Seidel and Patti Smithson

Before we set out to discuss the raucous fun on Saturday night, we should give a summation of our vast qualifications for being reviewers of dance. Michael is a music major turned pastry chef whose dance training was in a class titled: Dancing for Singers. Patti once dislocated her knee while watching Dancing with the Stars. With our CVs complete and feeling at ease with our ability to judge others, we braved Saturday evening on Capitol Hill for a night at Century Ballroom’s newest cabaret, La Fête.

Hosted by Hallie Kuperman, this dance cabaret began with time-rewinding tableaux of the dinner party bacchanal that would unfold. First to arrive were Joshua Welter and Melanie Huot-Lavoie who danced an energetically exuberant Lindy Hop. They were light on their feet and clearly enjoyed themselves. We were hoping for a few of the crowd-pleasing tricks that our Dancing with the Stars training tells us are characteristic of the style, though.

The louche, Wladamir Pino arrived next to dance a tango with one of the French maids, Michelle Badion. Patti thought Badion’s execution and clean lines were very lovely.

The unmistakable opening to Sir Duke introduced LaTwon and Arielle, two members of the Northwest Tap Connection. They tapped the heck out the song, that in Michael’s mind, is forever linked to ballroom dancing thanks to Emmett Smith. They had great energy and timing. Their steps to match the rhythm of the melody were particularly well done.

Before the intermission came the most terrifying part of the evening—and by “terrifying” we mean “awesome” or “holy cat, look at that” (take your pick). In get-ups impossible to describe, for no words could do justice, Dance Belt (comprised of Waxie Moon, Inga Ingenue, and Lou Henry Hoover) brought us Single Ladies; or, Put a Ring on It in stunning 3-D that made Patti thankful for briefs. This re-imaging of the water aerobics accompaniment classic will be hard for us to forget. Indeed Michael wishes he could, and Patti will not let him. It was quite entertaining, crowd-pleasing and, as Patti stated, “Spot on.”

There was no let up in the hi-jinks during intermission either, as Ben DeLaCreme continued her upstaging by deflating a turkey with her considerable “charm” and “skill.”

The second half brought three great girl-on-girl-on-girl numbers in the form of a group salsa, a west coast swing and an inventive and sinuous tango three-some. All were well-choreographed and smoothly performed pieces, highlighting the styles themselves. They were, however, split by the Weird Clue Interlude™. Giving DeLaCreme and Hoover their moment downstage, this segment was indeed funny, but oddly placed and disruptive to the flow of the show. It would have worked had the show been more of a variety show rather than only a dance review.

This dinner-party-gone-haywire ended with a Michael Jackson throw-down led by Dance Belt. We don’t have much to say about the Michael Jackson throw-down, except to say we loved DeLaCreme’s upstage brain eating. The dancing was well done, we’re just over it. RIP already.

Proceeded by an optional dinner, and followed by optional salsa lesson and dancing, La Fête could be a whole into-the-wee-small-hours experience. (Grandma and Grandpa here had to get to bed, though). The music choices throughout the show were perfectly toe-tapping and engaging. Michael was especially struck by Hoover’s charmingly quirky dead-pan characterization and dancing style, and we thought all the pieces were well-choreographed and skillfully executed. Funny goings-on upstage added to the fun and were not too distracting. There were some pacing issues in transitioning between numbers, dead space and awkward moments that live music or dialogue could have smoothed over in order to keep our energy up. Aside from entertaining us, La Fête also served as a way for Century Ballroom to publicize their dance class offerings. Each segment, including the Beyoncé and MJ are classes taught at the Ballroom, and the casting choices for the dancers were clearly inclusive of all, which made us think, “Well, hell, I could do that too!”

While we joke about our lack of practical experience in the dance world, we both hold a genuine interest in ballroom dancing that does stretch beyond just Dancing with the Stars. We look forward to seeing what else Kuperman can cook up in the future, and hope it’s not too far in the future.