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After intermission, “real lies” audience members return to what feels like a real dance club.

By Claire Thornton


William Keiser ’19 and James Jared’s ’19 dance thesis show real lies is jam-packed with the kinds of youthful emotions college students love to both remember forever and forget the next morning. 

The choreography tells the story of a Pinocchio-like character who leaves his strict home and, through trials, is invited into a world of decadence. Keiser’s rich artistic approach to the form will truly move you, and Jared’s background in commercial dance performance means you’ll also be thoroughly entertained — especially if you like Ariana Grande. 

Though metaphoric, real lies is tightly grounded in ideas of joy and discipline. Scenes recalling dance clubs and self-improvement cults become a mirror onto the environment in which Keiser, Jared, and the audience exist — that of Princeton University itself. real lies is produced in a place where high points feel great and low points can feel like the worst thing ever. But the show’s colorful and full-bodied message helps us better understand the balance between pleasure and pain.

When our Pinocchio is born out of darkness and steps into the light, he’s not happy. Performed beautifully by Enver Ramadani ’21, Pinocchio’s character is a fresh mix of mechanical and playful. But he’s boyishly reluctant to get out of bed — a reminder of the childlike nature inside all of us. 

Pinocchio’s puppeteer is performed by campus celebrity and North Brunswick, NJ local Vince di Mura, whom you may have seen playing piano at Forbes College’s Sunday brunches this year. Early scenes of both parental control and peer pressure show how a misguided youth leads to risk-taking.

Zooming away from the comfort of home, the choreographers bring us into a scene of a military camp and show us how violence can be playful. Dancers try to see how high they can jump but must contort their bodies to do so. 

Altering one’s self becomes a means to an end where the goal is a stereotypical idea of success and achievement. Pinocchio’s friends let themselves be molded by the drill sergeant, showing what they’re willing to sacrifice to make it to the next level. 

Pinocchio himself responds well to the discipline and the dancers form a cult with him at the center, ready to take on their next challenge.

In the world of pleasure, the choreographers’ smart use of props means there are surprises around every corner. Dancers gaze lustfully into mirrors and pull us along to the sounds of some of today’s biggest pop hits. 

In the dance number “lies,” spectators feel just as elevated as the six performers on stage — all of whom are wearing stilettos. Smoldering stares pierce the audience and it’s fist-in-mouth sexy. 

Later, Keiser and Jared have everyone join in on the party, and actually bring the audience onto the stage to dance with their performers. 

Pinocchio also gets an invitation to join this new world, but the rush is too much for him.

After being elevated to the top, Pinocchio gets spit out by the machine and struggles to recover. His arc and the production’s bold choices will help you realize exactly why both remembering and moving on from youthful exploits feel so good.

real lies continues Friday at 9:30 p.m and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

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