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Why I'm Scared of Dance

Jennifer Childs can mock "dance" and all her hang-ups without making a fool of herself and providing some applause-worthy entertainment.

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The title of Jennifer Childs' 2010 one-woman performance piece at City Theatre could more accurately be Why I'm Using a Love-Hate Relationship With Dance as a Metaphor for Life. But that doesn't have quite the same kick as Why I'm Scared of Dance, the real title of her breezy, sometimes comic, sometimes precious autobiographical tale.

Dance readily clicks with that broad swath of the (mostly female) population who began early an obsession with the glamour and dream of dance, even if it was just the fascination with a ballerina doll or a tutu. Every kiddie tap class, every movie musical and over-produced musical video feeds that obsession.

At heart, Dance is an interesting and much more intelligent approach to the stereotypical women's "body issues" shtick that has cluttered a media gamut from the comics pages to chick flicks. It's an old topic, but writer/performer Childs finds new things to say and new ways to say them, with the help of director Harriet Power.

The to-be-disproved premise of the piece is that the buff if petite and middle-aged Childs is not, and never could be, a "Dancer," with all the pretentiousness that entails. You know, hollow-cheeked sylphs with impossibly long limbs slinging dance bags that weigh twice as much as they do.

Actually, the co-founder and artistic director of the Philadelphia-based comedy theater company 1812 Productions is capable of some creditable dancing in various genres. (Wisely, her college theater program required various dance classes — more, I'm inferring, to build an internal physical discipline than to produce a glut of dancers.)

Thus Childs can mock "dance" and all her hang-ups without making a fool of herself and providing some applause-worthy entertainment. Why I'm Scared of Dance combines physical humor with non-stop wisecracks for an amazingly fast-paced rush of laughs, insights and general cheeriness.

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