Ah, the brilliance of brevity. Scott Wells & Dancers plunge straight into Father On with a thirty-second audio track that sums up courtship, marriage,and conception. After all, the prelude to parenthood is usually a brief moment compared to the lengthy reality of raising children. (I have an adult son, so I do know what I’m talking about.)
The next sixty-five minutes of choreography by Wells and Sheldon B. Smith, is a peculiar blend influenced by contact improvisation, sports, modern and folk dance. The dancers also speak, and whatever they lack in vocal training, they more than compensate for with their obvious sincerity. This conglomeration may sound odd, but somehow it works because it is an exploration of the vicissitudes of fatherhood – from tenderness to tedium, from liberating love to restrictive responsibility. I both laughed till my sides ached and cried when deeply moved.
What begins with five guys sitting around the table on their poker night leads to the slow unveiling of their feelings about parenting, then moving on to the hilarious “Sperm Folk Dance” set to Hungarian gypsy tunes, and then to other sections based on the motifs of childhood development and children’s games (tag and red light/green light, for example.) The “Father Seminar” section is a insightful send-up of pop psychology and New Age gobbletygook. It isn’t often that anyone combines rambunctious rebuke and astute thought-provoking ideas so successfully in such a brief span of time.
On the other hand, some sections go on too long, or meander a bit too much, and the piece would greatly benefit from heavier editing. The important thing to remember is that we all have fathers – some overly-protective, some absent, some loving, some abusive, some strict, some humourous. How often do we think about our fathers’ views of how they think or feel they may have influenced our development? Often only after we become parents ourselves. Or we could go see something like “Father On” and get the benefit of being entertained while the performers illuminate the many sides of being fathers.