16 | The Comedy Dance Collective
“Should we have him do it?”
I’m watching the Comedy Dance Collective run one of their practices in preparation for their upcoming show at the iO Theater. Turns out, the CDC members seem to be turning to watch me as well - one by one. Uh oh.
“Yeah, I think we should have him do it.”
One of the CDC members, CJ, shouts out in his best Kronk voice (which is actually super spot-on): “Hey, we got any single riders out there? We’ll there ya are. Come on over here, young chap.”
Guess that’s my cue. I have no idea what’s going on, but I walk onto the “stage” and find myself in a chair between two CDC members who I learn are my fellow passengers. Within the next two minutes, I get taken on a whole adventure which involves surviving a roller coaster, shooting zombies, and going on a magic carpet ride – all without barely moving from my initial spot.
Welcome to the Comedy Dance Collective’s newest show, The Comedy Dance Collective in 4D. (Yeah, you read that right. 4D). Their newest production premieres tomorrow, and will combine both comedy and dance.
Wait. Pause. What? 🤔
If you’re unfamiliar with the comedy scene in the US, Chicago is highkey one of the must-visit-cities to get your laugh on. With Chicago staples such as The Second City Theater, Annoyance Theater, and the iO Theater offering comedy classes and regular shows, it’s pretty easy to find a slew of comedic experiences to immerse yourself in most nights of the year.
What’s not necessarily as common (or at least, not as well known) are shows like CDC’s that combine comedy and dance. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes we forget to simply have fun when dancing; to be okay with not being perfect, and to remember that when it comes down to it, laughing next to the people you end up dancing with is often the best part. (Wow that came out waywaywayyy cheesier than I meant it to be, but we’re just going to roll with it.)
The Comedy Dance Collective focuses on that fun aspect - to join dance and comedy together in one interactive show, and to allow people to forget about their troubles and avoid the ickiness of the world, even if just for one night. If you’re looking for an experience that involves eating, smelling, a splash zone and lots of laughter, then look no further.
The CDC found its start a few years back with Sarah Barnhardt, after she took a class at the Second City. Sarah “super loves” physical comedy, and she didn’t just want to do sketches that were funny based on witty dialogue alone, she wanted to do pieces which incorporated movement as the punchline. At this point in her life, Sarah had already tried to start a couple of comedic duo projects that just didn’t work out but shortly after taking this Second City class, she decided to give it another go. Sarah got together with two other people in her class to do a physical comedy piece, and Sarah loved the result.
Sarah: “That was the first piece we ever did, and it went over so well. I wanted to keep going. So, we just decided to start a comedy dance group. A few other people expressed interested in joining us, and we put together our first show for Sketchfest at Stage 773! We weren’t sure how it was going to go since we’ve never performed it, but it actually went really really well.”
So well in fact, that Stage 773 offered the group a run of shows to perform. Thus, the Comedy Dance Collective was born. They've continued to grow from that initial 3-person team, and now has around 8 company members – including Justin Kimball!
Justin: “I started in musical theater, and my parents were both directors and actors. So growing up, I always wanted to be in musical theater too. As for dancing, I discovered hip-hop dance when I was really young, and to see this big white dude pull off a wave at a dance party...that can be comical. I like breaking those expectations."
Continuing his interests in theater and dance, Justin was introduced to the Second City Conservatory and started touring with Theater Unspeakable, a group that specializes in physical theater. That's where Sarah and the CDC come in for Justin.
Justin: "Almost two years ago now, I met Sarah at this physical festival thing we both happened to be performing at, and I was scheduled to perform right after her. After watching her performance, I was like 'Oh. I don’t want to go now." 😅 She did this piece called “how to fold a fitted sheet” and it was this whole weird crazy funny thing!"
As dancers, Justin says that CDC has never called themselves the best dancers in the universe, but they just love dance, telling stories, and comedy – so to combine all those things is such a fun and engaging opportunity.
Justin: “I love telling stories, or things that people can relate to. Or even just absolutely absurd things. I’m hoping that with this intersection of choreography and dancing and comedy - we’ll be able to reach a lot of new people and show them what’s possible in performance.”
You’ll actually spot them in the community at quite a few events this month on top of their upcoming show. After performing at the Carnival Choreographer's Ball next week on the 10th, you can also catch them at The Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival on May 17th!
All the senses. All of them.
Justin and Sarah have been hard at work with the rest of the CDC team to put together their newest show. The inspiration for this interactive show came about from performing at the iO Theater’s New Year’s Eve Show, where they’ve been invited to perform a few times. During these performances, the CDC realized how much the crowd loved not only the comedy and dance aspects of their show, but also the interactiveness that their show offered – running out into the audience and even pulling a few audience members on stage. That realization started to spark some ideas.
Justin: “The next show is called CDC in 4D. You know those Disney rides? Like a Bug’s Life? You're sitting in a theater, but you can feel the bugs crawl underneath you. You smell the stinkbug? That's the kind of feel we are going for (sans bugs).
We're really thinking about how can we add more engagement – we’ve always been very interactive, like with the iO's New Year’s Eve show. How do we bring that to the next level?"
For "CDCN4D", CDC wanted to activate as many senses as possible in a single production. You're going to hear and see things. Smell things. You might be on stage at some point. You might have something thrown at you (there's a splash zone, FYI). You might have to close your eyes. Also - there's eating. A LOT OF IT.
Justin: “So off the top of my head, we have a full pizza, a full pie, sriracha sauce, tacos, and this ONE GUY EATS ALL OF IT. We actually didn’t realize while writing the sketch that we made the same person eat everything, so if he ends up eating all of those things for every show – that’s a LOT of FOOD. We actually gave him all the eating parts. 😭 There’s also like a bag of chips. God – I hope he doesn’t get heartburn. 😂
It’s definitely been a push for us especially since we have a theme of the "4D" now. Usually in sketch comedy, we can write about whatever we feel like, but CDCN4D gives us a lot more of that concrete focus – how do we play with the dimensions and senses. How do we make you look from above something, taste something, smell something...and so we’re really playing with that a lot. Also I mean. There's going to be a dance party after the first show." 😁
No educational requirements here
You don’t need any educational requirements to go enjoy this family-friendly show. Actually, one of the reasons that Sarah began the Comedy Dance Collective was to create a space where people could laugh and just enjoy each other’s company without reminders of the stresses of the world.
Sarah: “I took all these classes at the Second City which were so helpful, but I didn’t feel like it was my style. Incorporating politics into humor is pretty common, but it’s not my style. I don’t keep up with current pop culture. I…don’t know who actors are, I don’t know people. 😅
Basically, I wanted to start a group that was just visually funny and made you forget the crap of the world. Instead of bringing the crap of the world into your comedy which is still super wonderful, we decided not to bring the crap of the world into the show.”
Justin: “Yeah - it’s a great way to just kick back and enjoy the presence of goofy people and funny performances without having to deal with all the stress that can be out there. There really aren’t any pop culture references. Except really dumb ones.”
Sarah: “And the audience reactions have been great – they say its…timeless. It isn’t related to current events, so sometimes there are segments of the show that don’t even have a point but to be just visually funny.”
The comedy world is diverse already – including sketch comedy, improv, stand up, monologue pieces, and more. Yet, the Comedy Dance Collective is trying to push physical comedy’s exposure, and the uniqueness of including both comedic and dance elements ends up becoming a strength for the entire experience.
Justin: “The best thing about our show is that no one ever tells me that their favorite part is the same thing - so many people come in from different backgrounds and different parts of our performance will appeal to everyone in a unique way.”
Sarah: “I usually guarantee 32 laughs. At least. You’re just going to feel good. That’s what our group is all about. You’re going to have a good time, and you can forget all about the world outside for a second.”
Justin: “You can be a part of the show if you want to, or you can sit back. But a lot of people want to interact during the show. If you want to get on stage, you probably will get on stage at some point during the night.”
The show is described as heartfelt. Gracefully stupid. So dumb that it goes all the way back and it’s smart. In essence, Comedy Dance Collective in 4D is a great experience that brings dance all back to the fun of movement. Grab your tickets soon – I’ll for sure be there! ⭐