It’s not often that television dedicates scenes entirely to dance. Despite body language being an intuitive part of our life, dance and expression through the body have become largely seen as obscure and abstract ways to get across a story or an emotion. Again, this is very odd knowing that everyone with eyes is taking in cues from the positions of peoples bodies every time they interact, but when this is amplified into a play or a ballet it immediately becomes niche. For those who love the art form it hasn’t stopped them from appreciating works of dance, but its extremely rare for this to get represented in mainstream media – enter Always Sunny.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (the shows full name) is an ongoing sitcom set in an Irish bar that has been running successfully since 2005. It focuses on a ‘gang’ of five undesirables who scheme, drink and debauch their way through the day, somehow managing to keep the bar they own open. This hilarious show has captured so many viewers that it is one of the best performing sitcoms in America and is tied for the longest running, suffice to say it has a lot of eyes on it. In the final episode of its latest season the show took some new routes with their characters. Mac the perpetually closeted homosexual was finally embracing it in this season with mixed results. In the final episode, Mac chooses to tell his father (a hardened and violent criminal, still doing jail time) that he was gay. The striking thing about this final scene was that the show chose to create the sequence with interpretive dance.
After speaking the unmistakable words “Dad, I’m gay” the outlandish and silly show that is usually rough around the edges is transformed.
Taking to a blackened stage with soft aerial lighting and the sounds of a storm, suddenly Mac (played by a ridiculously gym fit Rob McElhenney) is face to face with a female clad in a torn nude dress (Ballerina Kylie Shea). What unfolds is nothing short of a masterpiece. As the highly flanged tones of piano fill the air and rain forms puddles on the dark ground below a captivating and cryptic dance ensues. Mac is stripped of his t-shirt revealing his bare torso and the two begin a choreographed wonder. With impressive holds, spins, and more all delivered with picture perfect form and impeccable timing, this satirical, ridiculous show suddenly becomes a dance of drama that you cant turn away from.
Its not just that this dance was executed with professional skill, or that it instantly changed the tone of a show that is proudly inappropriate and full of gross-out humour – this scene brought dance as a form of emotional expression to millions of viewers. Though its intentionally ambiguous, the performance illustrates the push and pull that the character is locked in with both his sexuality and his Catholicism. If this is the first time someone experiences contemporary dance, it’s an incredible starting point and one that nobody was expecting.