BWW Review: MARIKO'S MAGICAL MIX Gets Kids Interested in Dance

Natalie Leibert as Mariko. Photo provided by The Kennedy Center.

MARIKO'S MAGICAL MIX: A DANCE ADVENTURE, although aimed at younger audiences can carry appeal to anyone interested in theater, dance, or cinema. The thoughtful production, directed by Terence Marling, is a world premiere. It was brought on as a collaboration among the Kennedy Center, Hubbard Street 2, a dance troupe out of Chicago, and Manual Cinema, a performance collective, design studio and production company.

The show follows Mariko, played by Natalie Leibert, in her discovery of the vinyl record. This is in contrast to the headphones she is constantly wearing. Listening to music in this way, takes her on a journey, where kids and adults alike, will understand the message of opening yourself up to the world and closing yourself off.

It was brilliant how Marling portrayed this idea. It was powerful yet simple. For instance, when Mariko is listening to her music on her headphones she is alone. Her actions are being played to music the audience cannot hear. Listening to vinyl brings her and the show to life. The audience becomes included.

Mariko's adventure was an awesome use and experiment of shadows. This world she is transported to following this discovery was completely formed through shadows and projections. Decisions like this can go badly, but instead was well integrated. The shadows, produced by Manual Cinema, really did give it a cinematic feel. A piece of theater physically has to occur in one place, the theater. The shadows conversely, provided a sense of movement and location change that film provides.

At the end of the day, when it comes to children's theater it hardly matters what the reviewer thinks. What matters is the reaction of the children in the audience, which for this piece was positive. Several times I heard laughing and "yay's" cheered when something went well.

What is ultimately so cool with this piece is it can serve as almost a "gateway" piece to get kids interested in dance. Meaning, not only was it a well performed and well-choreographed, it was understandable. Dance can be difficult merely because there is little to no speech. When you combine the dancing with the shadows and the music, it was a performance that not only kids can enjoy but appreciate.

MARIKO'S MAGICAL MIX: A DANCE ADVENTURE runs in the Kennedy Center Family Theater through October 11. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or by calling Instant Charge at (202) 467-4600.
Runtime is about 60 minutes.

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From This Author Hannah Menchhoff

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