The Cotton Mouth Club
The Cotton Mouth Club Credit: Eddo Photography

Edging closer to musical theater with The Cotton Mouth Club, Chicago Dance Crash nevertheless remains edgy. The barroom setting and lack of dialogue bring to mind Twyla Tharp’s Broadway hit Come Fly Away. But instead of Sinatra, OutKast and Michael Jackson provide the tracks, as 17 dancers storm the stage in an avalanche of hip-hop, breaking, popping, contemporary dance, and a bit of swing. A 1929 speakeasy is the hedonistic scene of the first act, while the second, also galvanized by ferocious flirting and fighting, takes place in a bar in 1989. The nearly invisible plot revolves around the romantic tribulations of Rooster and Zora, whose names and skeletal stories come from OutKast’s 2006 film, Idlewild.

Way more significant is the dancing, mainly choreographed by Robert McKee and CDC artistic director Jessica Deahr. Though the occasional duet or solo establishes character, the ensemble sections dominate, packing the stage with sexual power trips and battles so potent and individual, I often couldn’t make up my mind which dancer(s) to watch. The energy drops in the second act, which adopts a deja vu approach as well as choreography that approaches the gliding, gravity-free ideal of the King of Pop. The Cotton Mouth Club remains an 85-minute miracle of powerhouse dance.