Tim Tai, Senior Photographer

This year’s Fro-Show, “Dance Nation,” which is directed, acted and produced entirely by first-year students, premieres this weekend at the University Theater.

Set somewhere in America, Dance Nation follows the stories of a group of competitive dancers as they navigate growing up and self discovery. This army of pre-teens aims to take over the world, clawing their way to victory at the national competition in Tampa Bay. Wild, gritty and raw, Dance Nation will be performed Thursday, Feb. 22 through Saturday, Feb. 24.

“I chose Dance Nation because I feel like right now, there’s a lot of talk about femininity and what it means to be women,” said director Katya Agrawal ’27. “It introduces this gritty element to womanhood, and it really does highlight themes that I think are sometimes hard to talk about.” 

The show has been in rehearsal since November, and the process has been a rigorous one. 

At the beginning of the rehearsal process, Agrawal sent out a director’s note, elucidating a clear vision for the emotions that the play should evoke through choreography and styling. 

“Our director and assistant director talked a lot about going through and finding motivations behind every line,” said Ella Brenes ’27, who plays Maeve. “We reflected on our pre-teen years, and looked back at old pictures of ourselves to find similarities and immerse ourselves in the character.” 

The stage is set up as an incomplete dance studio and isn’t insulated from reality. As a “ghost play,” the actors weave in and out of their realities, traversing space and time and reflecting on their childhoods from an adult point of view, Agrawal said. 

In many ways, the characters in Dance Nation are exaggerated, collective reflections of the youth of those portraying them. From chanting “I wish my soul were as perfect as my pussy,” to dancing to a song called “Baby Sexy Robots” and discussing menstruation, Dance Nation is a visceral yet tender exploration of girlhood. 

Nneka Moweta ’27, the play’s choreographer, discussed the importance of dance in the self expression of the characters.

“I feel like it’s limiting to pinpoint a specific dance genre to Dance Nation as a whole,” she said. “It’s a very vulnerable piece of dramatic work, and so I really tapped into a lot of contemporary jazz and modern styles with some Hip Hop influence in there as well to really show a kind of rawness.” 

The production did not come without its fair share of challenges. 

Almost two dances in, Dance Nation was unable to secure the rights to the choreographed songs during the winter break. With immense collaboration and support, the students found new tracks, secured rights and reworked choreography, all within the first month of being back for the Spring semester.

“It’s a very out of the box show,” said Elizabeth Swaine ’27, who portrays Ashlee. “I think that it really brought the cast together, just doing a script that’s so wild, where we have to really push ourselves.”

Agrawal said she believes that the intended audience of the play, Yale students, are those that feel the loosening grip of childhood, yet not the firm embrace of adulthood. Earnest, exuberant and ecstatic, Dance Nation cuts to the bone, speaking to the indelible marks of youth on maturity.

The play “Dance Nation” was written by Clare Barron in 2018.