The energy level is high, and that’s just the audience clamoring for a drink at “Bounce,” the latest monosyllabic (pseudo-) sensation following (or so its creators must hope) in the footsteps of “Blast” and “Stomp.” Will this show pursue the international path of its forbears?
That depends on the willingness of a public to pay more than $30 a ticket to catch what — in London, anyway — more diligent observers can spot for themselves for free on any given night in the concrete crevices on the south side of Waterloo Bridge. There, people can be found “breaking” and “popping” and generally having a ball, whereas the smiles on over-abundant display at “Bounce” look mighty forced.
That’s a shame, in a way, since a market exists for what “Bounce” aims to do — namely, gather together in one show the variety of street styles that make up movement today. Spawned in Sweden, the piece has a British director in Anthony van Laast, the choreographer who is among the less impressive participants of the phenomenon that is “Mamma Mia!,” not to mention the stager responsible for last season’s excruciating “Burn the Floor.”
“Bounce” is better than that was, but barely, and not for the first time one yearns for van Laast to evince some real style and flair. If only Savion Glover had been let loose on the same material, “Bounce” might move to its own authentic beat. Instead, it’s an object lesson in would-be cool (kool?) that just doesn’t wash, unless you, too, are yearning to see the lows to which a first-rate designer (“Swan Lake’s” Tony-winning Lez Brotherston) can be reduced.
Brotherston’s generically metallic set might serve at best a touring company of “West Side Story” or “Fame,” two shows whose casts would never be caught grinning nearly as much as the “Bounce” company almost scarily does. (It’s OK, guys, you want to cry out: Other emotions are permissible, too.) Charting an occasionally energizing but mostly wearing course through hip-hop, breakdancing and more, the show is a rally disguised as an educative trawl through the kinetic potential of the body.
You’ve got to hand it to the performer who can seemingly isolate every part of his chest, while another throws himself about with such abandon that one is tempted to call an ambulance. (The program doesn’t indicate who is doing which portion of the show.) There are military maneuvers, caveman sequences and a cringe-making ode to ballet.
Better than any of those is a danced homage to “Superfly” featuring polyester and afros and thigh-high white boots. Only then does “Bounce” lay off the amplified din and bonhomie in favor of some good old-fashioned camp — until, that is, the dancers once again return to their synchronized craft, leaving onlookers wondering whatever happened to soul.