fireWALL Dance Theater’s ‘Uproar’ an Unexpected Holiday Treat

Elisa Marie Alio in fireWALL Dance Theater's "Uproar". Photo by Heather Mull
Elisa Marie Alaio in fireWALL Dance Theater’s “Uproar”. Photo by Heather Mull.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

For its sophomore effort, fireWALL Dance Theater embarked on a unique project. The resident dance company at Carnegie’s Off the Wall performing-arts center created a companion dance-theater piece to the Liz Duffy Adams play Or, now being staged by Off the Wall’s acting troupe. Adams’ Or, tells a fictional story of 17th-century British poet, spy and playwright Aphra Behn’s efforts to write a play while constantly being interrupted by a trio of lovers. fireWALL’s Uproar turns that premise inside-out using a similar setting and characters to tell the tale in dance of an author whose fictional characters complicate her efforts to write their stories.

Uproar, conceived by Erika Cuenca and fireWALL artistic director Elisa-Marie Alaio, who also choreographed the work, is set to original music by Ryan McMasters. The Dec. 18 opening-night performance began with Alaio, as the author, engrossed in her writing and taking some pleasure in its outcome. On a one-room set with several doors and furnishings, the author was interrupted by the appearance of dancer Taylor Quinn in a French maid’s costume running into the room on tiptoes in small quick steps. Her arms spun in rapid circular movements in front of her as if to steady her balance while angling to catch a glimpse of what Alaio was writing. The first of many quirky characters sprung from the author’s mind, Quinn was a delight as the perky blonde maid whose curiosity led to several humorous moments throughout the intermissionless 50-minute work.
The cast in fireWALL Dance Theater's "Uproar". Photo by Heather Mull
The cast in fireWALL Dance Theater’s “Uproar”. Photo by Heather Mull

The author’s other characters first appeared in nondescript leotards, then as the work progressed donned costumes, hinting at their station and their relationship to the author, who doubled as the heroine in her own story. A royal lover, a lesbian lover and a long-lost lover all vied for the heroine’s affections, leading to a few heated makeout sessions that sent pulses racing.

Uproar‘s primary allure however, came from Alaio herself. The Point Park grad’s vibrantly athletic choreography was thick with gesture and beautifully nuanced, and her passionate acting and dancing in the role of the author/heroine was a triumph. Also notable was the over-the-top performance of Luke Paulina in drag as a flamboyant dramaturge come to help the struggling author.

A solid effort by all involved, Uproar proved an unexpected holiday treat.

Elisa Marie Alaio, Jenna Rae Smith and Glenna Clark  in fireWALL Dance Theater's "Uproar".  Photo by Heather Mull.
Elisa Marie Alaio, Jenna Rae Smith and Glenna Clark in fireWALL Dance Theater’s “Uproar”. Photo by Heather Mull.

fireWALL Dance Theater’s Uproar continues through Jan. 11. Off the Wall PAC, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie. $5-25. 888-718-4253 or

This article originally appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper  on December 31, 2014. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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