State of the Art

Watch the dance, BE the dance at ‘Dance Interactive’

At Charlotte Ballet’s new show Dance Interactive, you can get even closer than this to performers.
At Charlotte Ballet’s new show Dance Interactive, you can get even closer than this to performers. Peter Zay

Few words strike more fear into my heart than “audience participation.” My idea of “participating” at a concert or a play consists of giving it my full attention, retaining an open mind about what I’m seeing and using my imagination to meet the artists partway.

I don’t want to be brought onstage, have actors come into the crowd to “connect” with me personally (unless they stop for no more than three seconds), answer questions from the audience or in any way raise my head above the large anonymous mass.

But if you do, “Dance Interactive” sounds cool. For one thing, it’s cheap: The $9 ticket for the hour-long performance costs less than a first-run movie. (Get one by calling 704-372-1000 or going to

For another, it’s diverse: Seven Charlotte Ballet dancers will set pieces on their mates in the company, so you might come across a brilliant choreographer-in-the-making. For a third, it’s a one-time event: It happens April 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the intimate theater at McBride-Bonnefoux Center for Dance, 901 N. Tryon St.

Mark Diamond, program director for Charlotte Ballet II, devised the evening and calls it “a unique opportunity for audience members to experience what the dancers experience when they are onstage. All audience members, whether participating or observing, will be able to hear the dancers breathe and view their emotion, passion and energy.” (Breathing I don’t mind – at a distance.)

This is not “So You Think You Can Dance,” where you’re paired with a pro who guides you through intricate moves. In “Dance Interactive,” you’ll be invited to come onstage and blend into works by Melissa Anduiza, Josh Hall, Sarah Hayes Harkins, David Morse, Emily Ramirez, Josiah Savage and Amanda Smith.

Diamond explains that there will be moments interspersed through the program where dancers invite people to come up for a serpentine move or a “follow-me” kind of partnership. (The show is in the round, so it feels more informal to begin with.) The finale could potentially involve everyone.

“They don’t have to do it, but they’re welcome to do it,” he says. “Dancers may go sit with you or invite you into the action. I want people to have the experience of what it’s like to be under the lights and have someone looking at you.”

Ballets will vary in style but will take inspiration from the characters, themes and whimsy of commedia dell'arte. Dancers from Charlotte Ballet II will be dressed in period costumes representing typical commedia dell'arte characters and will interact with audience members during the performance.

I’m on vacation the week of the show, but I’m tempted to come see the pieces. Look for me, if I make it, at the very back of the theater, well out of reach of any persuasive arms.