Dance Nation shows girl power at play

MOVING FORWARD: A still from Dance Nation
MOVING FORWARD: A still from Dance Nation


AN “UNAPOLOGETIC” play about ambition and power among young women will have its UK premiere next Monday (27).

Dance Nation, described as a “ferocious exploration of youth”, follows a group of pre-teen female dancers as they battle for perfection on and off stage. Although tied into the dancing world, the play focuses on the ambition and identities of the girls as they take the first steps into womanhood.

Manjinder Virk plays Connie, a 13-year-old girl who is a member of the dance squad.

Virk, who has trained in contemporary dance, told Eastern Eye the story is especially relevant with several high-profile women’s movements coming to the forefront.

“It is so relevant now with campaigns such as #MeToo which centralise on women’s rights and speaking up for ourselves,” she said. “Women shouldn’t be afraid of talking about things which affect them.”

Virk revealed she could relate to aspects of her character’s personality.

The Coventry-born star explained that Connie has a sadness about her, and uses dance as a form of escapism.

“I like the fact that Connie escapes in her arts. Sometimes I’ve done that when I’ve written something or performed something that has taken [me] away from something difficult happening in my life,” she said. “I can relate to that part of her.”

The British Indian actress and writer, who has starred in films such as Andrea Dunbar biopic The Arbor and Bafta-winning drama BRITZ, said the show was unlike anything she had ever worked on before. It was unique, she explained, because of the movement behind it.

Cast members Sarah Hadland (left) and Manjinder Virk during rehearsals

“I have done some physical productions, but this is very different,” she said. “It is a wild ride, very complex, emotional and funny.”

According to Dance Nation’s writer Clare Barron, the story was inspired by the American reality show Dance Moms. The popular series is known for chronicling high-pressure dance competition featuring young girls and their ambitious mothers.

“The competitive nature is drilled into the girls and it is a really interesting subject area,” Virk remarked.

“There are questions of pressure and if it makes you happy and what it means in the long term.”

Talking about the challenges of working on such an energetic production, Virk admitted the four hours of dance rehearsals could get tiring.

“I was totally unfit before doing this,” she said. “There is a lot of movement, a lot of dancing, and that was quite testing but ultimately, it is such a rewarding experience for the audience and for us.”

Dance Nation is at the Almeida Theatre, London, from next Monday (27) until October 6