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Originally published Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 3:06 PM

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‘Improvement Club’: a buoyant Seattle dance comedy

A three-star movie review of “Improvement Club,” an engaging feature about a luckless dance troupe from Seattle choreographer and theater director Dayna Hanson.


Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 3 stars

‘Improvement Club,’ with Dayna Hanson, Wade Madsen, Jessie Smith, Dave Proscia, Peggy Piacenza, Maggie Brown, Jim Kent, Paul Matthew Moore, Pol Rosenthal. Written and directed by Hanson. 98 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.

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Charming, buoyant and self-assured, Dayna Hanson’s “Improvement Club” is a Seattle comedy not quite like any other.

Featuring some of the city’s most respected artists and performers playing themselves in an increasingly absurd tale of a luckless dance troupe, the film has broad appeal as a portrait of good intentions gone awry.

Hanson, a real-life choreographer and director whose theater work “The Clay Duke” just completed a run at On the Boards, presents a movie version of herself as a somewhat insecure artistic director of a fringe-dance company.

Struggling through workshops of a quirky new production, Hanson and her troupe are invited to take the show to New York — then are bluntly uninvited when a bad review tarnishes the project.

Grasping at salvation, Hanson accepts a proposal from a rural-community theater to stage the dance there. Her consent sets into motion a ceaseless and very funny series of disasters involving everything from a broken van to a skinhead rock group.

Hanson takes a breezy, relaxed approach to filmmaking, never getting in the way of a good visual joke and coaxing wonderfully loose, self-deprecating acting from such Seattle dance and music stalwarts as Wade Madsen, Jessie Smith, Dave Proscia and especially Peggy Piacenza — who dons a cheesy-looking eagle mask and red lingerie for the troubled dance piece.

Hanson also proves a rigorous, inventive film director, making every shot interesting and infusing “Improvement Club” with welcome bursts of goofy, unapologetic joy.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com



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