General Mischief Dance Theater: Rascals with Altitude

Artistic Direction by Emily Smyth Vartanian

Off Off Broadway, Dance
Runs through 5.4.14
The Connelly Theatre, 220 East 4th Street


by Jane Sato on 4.29.14

General Mischief Dance Theatre. Photo by Eileen O'Donnell.


BOTTOM LINE: These young women present snippets of dance that transport you back to your adolescence in a matter of seconds.

General Mischief Dance Theatre is youthful, joyous and theatrical. There were lots of ear-to-ear smiles onstage and it was infectious. The Connelly Theatre felt a bit like an old vaudeville theater with its tin ceilings and comedy and tragedy masks on the proscenium. This well-produced evening has technical finesse and that New York theater scene-feel that is charming (and appropriately funded by Kickstarter campaigns).

I really appreciated the use of cellphones as lighting in Buzz, a dance for 5 based on the caffeinated and instant gratification culture we inhabit. The dancing couldn't really be seen, but the phones as lights made interesting patterns and was a great concept. Suite Shel, the longest piece of the evening was based on the poems of Shel Silverstein, which felt like a mime reenactment of the poems. In one of the sections entitled Shoes, they collected our shoes and as enjoyable as it was to see the dancers wear our shoes on their hands, it remained little more than that. Role Play, a duet danced and choreographed by Dale Harlow and Quincie Hydock dealt with pressures that girls face growing up. As they read “Flirting” and “Emotional Intelligence for Dummies” aloud and spoke candidly, I was instantly transported back to high school. The pair danced with elegance and coolness as reflected in their words. Their dance phrases were technical and hilarious at the same time. At one point they danced to “Milkshake” by Kelis and then to an empowering feminist speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was a highlight.

General Mischief Dance Theater creates a safe place for young people to explore their ideas and make new work with aerial elements, added audience participation, and some original music by Lizzie Hagstedt. Most of the works by dancer/choreographer Emily S. Vartanian were short dances with little dancing. What we saw were aerial moments where she and a partner jumped on a trampoline. It looked fun, but more so for her. There were also yoga-inspired movements, weaving pedestrian spatial patterns and facial expressions of childlike wonder. I would have liked to see her ideas develop further. What I think Vartanian was aiming for is a feel good one-liner and it worked, but I can see her wanting more than that in the future.

(General Mischief Dance Theatre: Rascals with Altitude plays at The Connelly Theater, 220 East 4th Street, through May 4, 2014. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM; Saturday 5/2 and Sunday 5/3 at 3PM. Tickets are $10-$20 and are available at or by calling 212.714.9644.)