8:Bit – Review

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I was informed that 8:Bit is a video gaming reference. I didn’t know this. It would suggest, that someone who isn’t really into video games, wouldn’t be into a show about it. But said show also features contemporary dance, which I’m into, so I took a gamble of ManDance’s 8:Bit and it payed off.

After a neurological experiment goes completely wrong, two step-brothers are trapped inside a video game where they have to fight to stay alive. It’s a great platform for some amazing creative movement. The first game they are up against is something equivalent to ping pong, but without rackets and complete with amazing jumps and kicks.

They then move on to dancing a couple worlds in the Super Mario Brothers original games, with Nintendo music that highlights their martial arts movement. If you played Nintendo (as I did) in the 80s and 90s (as I did) then you will understand every single reference that moves this performance along, from the game’s music to the bad guys they encounter along the way. They unfortunately die by smooshing and are consequently kicked out of the game.

Their next challenge is Zelda, where they light candles and figure out how to go through doorways but wind up battling each other, one brother as a boss (I’m unsure of the name, as I barely played Zelda because I’d get stuck for months on one part of the game) and the other as Link. Link loses and they are again kicked out of the game.

Then the show quiets down a bit, the boys stuck playing duck hunt, complete with the sound effects. It’s at this point where they talk about the conflict that exists between them, their struggle to connect with each other and the animosity that exists between them. 8:Bit doesn’t try to create a complex narrative involving the relationship between the stepbrothers, but it’s enough to allow the audience to sink their teeth into.

The games then lead to more unfamiliar territory for me, including what I think is Grand Theft Auto, though it did include a sequence from Mortal Combat. The dancing in the show is something to behold, as both men move in quick staccato motion complete with backflips and impressive jumps. Ikeda has more fluidity and strength in his movement that you can’t help but watch him most of the time. Lee performed some impressive breakdown moves in the small space at the Lolita Lounge. The only unfortunate part of 8:Bit is that the space is so very small, both Lee and Ikeda could do some outstanding, mesmerizing work with a full stage and room to move.

8:Bit manages to integrate contemporary dance into an accessible, funny, engaging performance. It’s a production for everyone, not just the gamers. It’s a nice breather from all the solo performance in the Calgary Fringe Festival.

8:Bit is part of the Calgary Fringe Festival. It plays 3 more times in the festival. More information is available online.

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