I have previously written about Ani Taj and The Dance Cartel's OntheFloor, an effervescent, dramatic and exciting live dance theatrical experience which takes place in the basement of the chic downtown Ace Hotel in New York City. Much to my delight, Taj, her company and OntheFloor are back starting this September with guests like Reggie Watts, The Mast and Grace Mclean.
OntheFloor has no precise script, no themes, no didacticism: It is a constantly changing, flowing, evolving performance. I sat down with Taj recently and shared ideas about the new fads that mix dinner theater, dance, walk-throughs and, what I can only term, "environmental theater" of the Sleep No More variety. The latter grates on my theatrical nerves: contrived, often boring and (un)knowingly taking advantage of the death of the night club. (For the record: I vastly prefer a real night club to paying $100, plus overpriced, mediocre drinks to sit in an anteroom before taking a wrong turn and missing Hamlet's ghost or whatever the main attraction of a particular "happening" is supposed to be!)
Taj's OntheFloor is smaller in scale than some of these other productions -- it is more directed and it knows what it wants you, the audience member, to experience: the Brazilian rhythms of Batala and whatever else turns the dancers on, the unexpected moves or twists, be it from one of her company members or your own, the flirtatious hip, the bodacious swagger!
My final comment as a critic and previewer is that regardless of your artistic and musical leaning or whims, there is something for everyone here. Many moans and groans have been heard these past years -- and this writer/critic is guilty of many of them -- regarding the death of downtown New York. OntheFloor may not be really downtown in the old sense of the word (no pianos being shattered by hammer blows, no dwarves playing obscure medieval instruments or performance artists on acid repeating the same sentence ad nauseum as they stagger forward -- are those always, necessarily good things?) No, OntheFloor isn't old-style downtown New York, but comes pretty damn close!