COLLIDE Theatrical Dance Company presents Zoot Suit Riots at the Lab Theater

zootsuit2COLLIDE Theatrical Dance Company has leaped into spring with an original dance musical, landing it with a new verve and finesse that’s topped this unique company’s previous shows – and that’s saying something. What a great night out at the theater!

Inspired by the zoot suit riots in Los Angeles in 1943, Zoot Suit Riots is a rush of beautiful energy, a catchy mix of ballet-influenced jazz and tap, all wrapped around a harsh reality that’s sweetened by the personal story Artistic Director Regina Peluso has created for it.

The story takes place at the historic Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, a forward-looking place in its day, but still unable to free itself of racial unrest. Childhood friends confronted with racial violence in the midst of a country at war must transcend societal barriers or lose the people they love forever.

The idea of the story plays better than the actual dramatic action, but we’re here for the dancing and it most certainly does not disappoint. Peluso has been patiently developing her young dancers into a true ensemble, but she also has a sharp eye for each dancer’s strong suits.

It was good to see Renee Guittar (Anna) featured in this performance as the romantic lead. Her dancing is so fluid and smooth, showcased nicely in “My Romance.”

Jeffrey Robinson plays her love interest and offers a nice balance with his expansive and clean movement. He owns the moment in particular with ‘the girls” in “Moondance.”

Riley Thomas Weber plays the spurned lover, Charles. As a powerful dancer with lots of stage personality, he was exactly the right one in this ensemble for the role.

Galen Higgins as Wyatt, in between tours with Rhythmic Circus, had just enough of a window to step in and play (are you ready?) a tap-dancing bad guy. Not just crazy good tapping, folks, Higgins strutted, flipped and slammed those cleats with as much swagger as his badass Marine character demanded – all in perfect rhythm, of course.

Rush Benson deserves a special mention for shaping “Frank” into a memorable character with dancing that showed acting chops as well.

Every dancer in the ensemble, which also includes Elander Rosser, Kole Nelson, Jami Snively, Alannah Renstrom and Nikki Ervice, did not miss their moments to shine.

They’re backed by capable musicians, including John Lynn on piano, Antonio Monterroso on guitar, Dana Mathewson on horns – and I was particularly impressed with Bob Beahen on drums and Sean O’Hea on bass. Singers Katie Carney and Ben Bakken fill in the rich and varied soundscape that features jazz standards alongside a jazz-flavored handling of more modern familiar tunes, such as “Another One Bites the Dust.” Having live musicians on stage is just a lot more interesting than recorded tracks, although not necessarily easier for the dancers, and I applaud COLLIDE for its commitment to using live music for all its shows.

The show runs through March 15. Note that the final show is a 2:00 matinee.







2 comments for “COLLIDE Theatrical Dance Company presents Zoot Suit Riots at the Lab Theater

  1. Janet Preus
    March 8, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    I agree, Cindy. He’s a wonderful dancer!

  2. cindy McNaughton
    March 8, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Jeffery Robinson was fantastic He was in almost every performance he was amazing n made the show I would like to he more about him He was the star of the show with his dance partner Renee Guittar They Dance Great together

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