It's Still Rock and Roll to Me...with pointe shoes
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It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me…with pointe shoes

theater_movinout.gifFull disclosure: Torontoist kind of loves Billy Joel. At the age of 8, we memorized almost all the lyrics to We Didn’t Start the Fire and chanted it regularly around the house – we had no idea what “children of thalidomide” meant, but we sure liked the sound of “space monkey mafia.” We occasionally drift into daydreams about being the Uptown Girl of someone’s dreams who wants us Just the Way We Are so we can enact Scenes in An Italian Restaurant For the Longest TIme while we’re in a New York State of Mind.
If all that sent you running for the nearest bathroom, you might want to give Movin’ Out a miss. Personally, we were tickled pink by Twyla Tharp’s modern ballet set to the classic hits of Billy Joel, but we have a bigger appetite for cheese than many. As there is no dialogue, the narrative is set in motion exclusively by the lyrics and choreography. The story (unsurprisingly, given the source material) is pretty cheesy and clicheed itself – it centers around five kids in the 1960s who have just finished high school. Judy (the demure balletic blonde, of course) and James are ready to get married (because they love each other Just the Way They Are), while Brenda (the slutty and vaguely intimidating brunette, naturally) and Eddie are breaking up so they can dance with other people. Then there’s Tony, who loves Brenda. We’re not sure how she feels about him, but she consents to dance with him for awhile at least. The boys enlist and go off to Vietnam, James is killed, and the other two come home angry and destroyed, and Judy’s pink dress changes to a torn up black tutu. Everyone dances angrily and self-destructively for most of the second act until somehow, for some reason (perhaps the arrival of the eighties?) the music is happy again and everyone is wearing pastels and hugging.
Cheesiness aside, though, the dancing is spectacular. Twyla Tharp’s blend of modern dance and ballet is accessible and entertaining, and she has the amazing ability to coax gravity-defying performances out of her dancers. The dancers themselves are extraordinary as well – Movin’ Out is an extremely physically demanding show and throughout two solid hours of high energy leaping, flipping, and pirouetting, the performers remain fully committed to breaking the laws of physics until the curtain falls.