Thousands of people go to Manhattan to see the latest Broadway and off-Broadway shows each year. But at The Lounge at Roy Arias Stages, you can be part of the act! During your next trip to NYC, come and meet those dancing feet…and help prove that “Bad Dancing” can be really, really fun!


Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery Traveling Mom

It’s an Off-Broadway dance comedy out to prove that bad dancing is good for everyone! In “Bad Dancing”, audience members have a chance to compete for the title of “World’s Best Worst Dancer.”

Currently playing at “The Lounge” at Roy Arias Stages on Manhattan’s West 43rd Street near 8th Avenue, this improv parody is set at the World Championship Bad Dance Finals.

“Dancers” Whit Leyenberger and Damiyr Shuford are fully immersed in their roles as dancers, critics and more, as you join them in the intimate space of a public library anti-chamber that’s conveniently transformed into a dance floor for some, um, public dancing. Don’t worry though, what happens in the lounge stays in the lounge…”until they put it up on YouTube.”


Tenets of Bad Dancing

Leyenberger and Shuford easily shuffle through the tenets of “Bad Dancing” including commitment, creativity, and the ability to disturb others when seen in the act. When the two were asked by the show’s Producer, Scott Griffin, to come up with a dance-heavy show that played off of the popularity of some of other dance shows “out there,” Leyenberger said they wanted to create, “an experience where you can step outside your comfort zone in a safe environment.”

Shuford says that even though the show is constantly changing to keep up with both trends in music and dance as well as each audience who sees the show, in the end, “It’s all about bad dancing, and why it’s cool and liberating to try it.”


Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery Traveling Mom

The night I attended started off with a quick introduction to the DJ, Sarah, found on Craigslist (as she was the most affordable), and an introduction of some of the “returning champs” who happened to be in the audience. Those included a 2nd grade teacher with a wonderful smile and a snap in her step, and two children who’d each won previously (and who were both younger than 8-years-old)–one who had the innate ability to flop around like a live fish on the floor.

The dancing gets under way with some of the “fad” dances of years gone by. Launching right in with a dance that I forbid at my own wedding (although it was done anyway), the Village People hit,  YMCA enticed the first batch of audience members to get out on the dance floor . Some dances experienced included (among many others) the Twist, the Chicken Dance, Gangnam Style and a conga line.

Points and Rounds

The performers act as both dancers and critics (from parodied shows such as “Dancing Without the Stars” and “So You Think You Can’t Dance”.) You’re openly encouraged to, “take as many low quality flash photos as you choose” and feel free to share them with the show’s producers following the show. Audience members are told they have a chance to win points for their dancing, for failing or having just a certain “je ne sais quois.” Points were indeed handed out for all kinds of reasons—with the judges looking for “weird creativity and bold personal choices.”

The  “XX” round was  just for the ladies in the room. Points were handed out on the spot for anything ranging from “good bling,” to a woman who started off grunting on the dance floor. Evidently, although she wasn’t doing anything anyone else wouldn’t have done, by the very end she had “a kind of X-Men thing” going on with her dancing. Everyone received points for something that was relevant to them, with the critics quick thinking getting us laughing as we witnessed the scene. Up next, a round for the men.

Then, a clever act called “Sync or Swim.”. Without giving away too much, it’s perhaps a tribute of sorts to one of Esther William’s distant cousins. Puppets appeared in this one as well helping to re-enact a version of a key scene in Jaws.

The Egg (or Betrayal Over Breakfast) was a Martha-Gramesque interpretation of omlette –making, created “for a thesis that will never be seen.” And when the performers were faced with some unexpected complications due to a burner that wasn’t working, a hearty “3 cheers for not checking your props” was heard, and they fully committed to the scene, which made for more laughs.

“Bad Dancing” is about bringing people together, which they do successfully—getting everyone out on the dance floor at one point or another.  Leyenberger says typically at the beginning, folks don’t necessarily want to dance, but by the end, all want to at least try it. The dancing duo feels lucky when they get the 13-16 year-olds to take part. Lucky for them–there were some dancing there that night.

Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery Traveling Mom

Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery Traveling Mom

The Finalists

As they proceed to the “finals”, our audience finalists comprised two teams, one of which I genuinely wondered how they’d ended up at this show in the first place. Two guys, Brook and Justin, both sporting brand new Yankees baseball caps, became “Team Brustin”, and faced off against two women who barely spoke English, but were game for the moonwalk.

Described as “fearless in a way that could actually be dangerous,” these bad dancers were complimented for a range of talents including their color coordination and their inability to pick up the beat. After all, “It takes an amazing person to fail, and fail, and…triumph against wining,” says Shuford.

Perhaps you’ll walk away with prizes that include an actual trophy (just large enough for small quantities of slushies and orange juice). There are some other surprises in store for future audience members as well. If there are younger children in the audience, the duo makes sure the show is family appropriate.

Our show ended with a laugh-out-loud medley that included full-(and bright) bodysuits and jorts (homemade jean-shorts), as well as the long-teased, and death defying (okay, injury defying) “Guatemalan Crossiant.” (Don’t try this at home!)

Audience participation is key, but don’t worry–this is a show that defends the fact that people aren’t perfect. Yet, what a perfectly lighthearted way to spend a few hours laughing. (Plus the added bonus of burning calories while at this performance!)

For some other improv-influenced shows in other cities, check out Traveling Moms’ suggestions about what to see in Orlando, Florida and Los Angeles, California.