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‘TETRISplus’ turns the video game into a dance routine at the Kennedy Center

In “TETRISplus,” dancers form shapes from the classic video game. Yeah, it’s as weird as it looks. (Konrad Simowski)

If you’ve ever wanted to play Tetris with your kids without burning their retinas, now’s your chance. The high-energy dance show “TETRISplus,” inspired by the Russian puzzle video game, will be spinning and stacking at the Kennedy Center this weekend.

“Bodies bounce around, boogie down, and twist and turn into recognizable, stacked shapes,” says Erik Kaiel, “TETRISplus” choreographer and artistic director of the Netherlands-based Arch8 Dance Company.

The show, a mix of breakdancing, mime and contemporary dance, opens with a dancer moving across the stage without ever touching the ground. He does it by balancing on and manipulating a still dancer beneath him, as if he were on top of a barrel in the middle of the ocean.

The bulk of the show, called “Tetris,” is even more acrobatic. With arms and legs stretched high in the air or tucked in tight, four dancers become your favorite tetrominoes: square, T, L, Z and the straight line (always a boon for an avid player). Like the classic video game, the dancers tumble and slide over one another to create solid blocks that, once formed, dissolve. Then the process begins again.

It may trigger Nintendo nostalgia, but the show features formations that you’d never see in the game. Sometimes, the dancers cluster into what looks like an elephant lumbering around. Other times, they glide toward one another, synchronized swimming-style, and rotate as if each one were a blade in a pinwheel. It’s all designed to show kids how much fun cooperation can be.

“Like kids, the beings in ‘Tetris’ like to go nuts and bounce around the stage,” Kaiel says. “But they also really want to belong.”

Kaiel, who also performs as a “Tetris” dancer, cautions that the acrobatics in the show should only be tried at home with a soft mat. But there are myriad safe movements that kids can try any time.

In fact, some audience members get to come onstage at the end of the show to join the dancers in the game of making shapes with their bodies and making fun formations with one another.

“We use Tetris as a model,” Kaiel says, “but really, we are encouraging kids to put down the joystick and get physically active. Touring around the world with this piece, we have discovered that even kids who have no idea what Tetris is are into it because it is about connecting with one another and being wacky.”

Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; Sat., 11 a.m., 1:30 & 5 p.m., Sun., 1:30 & 4 p.m., $20.

Check out other stories about stage shows:

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Which local production of ‘The Nutcracker’ is right for you?

In ‘A Very Pointless Holiday Spectacular,’ Mrs. Claus and the elves get the spotlight

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