Sep 17, 2006

Jazz Hands and Nekkid Ladies, Part I

I want to post something every day so that you will come back and check in with me, but it just isn't happening. It's not that I have little to say, it's that I have lots to say and can't seem to relax enough to sit down and type it out. Most of the time I'm obsessing over things that have to get done. You know it's a bad scene when your mom starts telling you to just C.T.F.O.* and that the world won't end if certain things don't get done.

Like right now, I have to go to work. Yes, I know it's Sunday. My work situation is one where working on the weekend has become completely normalized.

At least I got to sneak out on Friday with enough time to meet S.Wag. for dinner at the bar at Caribou, and then go to the last Fringe show I'd likely be able to make before the festival ended on Saturday night. The thing we went to was called "HELL" and was somehow inspired by Dante's Inferno but seemed to be about a lot of other things, too.

When approaching a fringey-type contemporary performance of art/dance/multimedia, I'm usually pretty open at first, and then immediately judgemental about whether it's quality or whether it's some far-reaching allegorical bullshit with no real talent to back it up. That's the thing about "the contemporary arts"- with modern dance and performance, we're defining the genres as we go, so you never know what box to put something in until you're halfway into it. For example, if you went to see an action movie with some famous action star, you'd know what box it fits in before you see it. If you went to see Disney's The Lion King Musical, you wouldn't know what the costumes or sets would look like, or what the music would sound like, but you certainly would know the format (part one, intermission, part two) and basically what to wear and what to expect.

So, we go to see "HELL" and the first thing that happens is that we sit down and the house lights are still on, but there are some people up on stage doing sort of Fame-esque dances to pop songs, and lip synching with enthusiasm. This clip shows bits of that part, which I later found out was called the "cabaret" section.



So, what you have is a situation where I don't even know if this is the actual show, or some kind of opening number, or what. The house lights are completely on, and people are kind of still trickling in. I am starting to suspect that this will be the lamest production ever, akin to me dressing up in my bedroom and doing "modern dance" moves that I made up. I can't tell what S.Wag. is thinking, and I purposely refrain from looking over at him and giving him the eye-roll because I still want to give it a chance and don't want to taint his perception. I also am amused because I feel like this is somehow a completely tongue-in-cheek thing and I'm waiting to see if I'm being Punked and how it pans out.

The "cabaret" continues for three or four numbers, and then drastically changes to a weirder version of the same. Soon after that, the bulk of the piece commences, which the above video clip skips entirely (the seemingly poorly synchronized topless people at the end are really at the very, very end of the piece). There is weird stuff going on on stage. People come out in sloppy clothes and with music stands, and then procede to do some spinning and swirling and slapping while a few of them light up cigarettes in succession. Ok, first of all, I'm amused that they are lighting up on stage and realize they must be European. But then I get pretty into it because I can actually smell the smoke from where I'm sitting and the lighting makes the rising plumes look really cool. More slapping and writhing happens, but I find myself sort of liking it.

Here are a few moments that I'll describe as examples of things I found compelling --There was a figure dressed all in black with a black sock over its head, and it would just occassionally come out and immitate what the main person was doing, but towards the edge of the stage and without fanfare. It was as if the stage became a double-exposed negative, with the images out of synch with the frame. You'd see a motion in the foreground, and then something twitching on the edge of the frame. It was fantastic, but I can't describe why.

Another part was when a figure, who I later knew to be the choreographer, was standing on the stage facing the back. He just kind of stood there, wearing too many clothes and a tarantula-like wig, facing the back. Every once in a while he'd move. The urge I felt for him to turn around was so strong, I could taste it. I don't know if that was the intention -- to set up this tension where everyone's WAITING for this dude to TURN AROUND ALREADY. But it was very effective and made me feel tingly.


* Chill the F Out. (Not that my mom actually said that.)

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