June 3, 2013 at thinkingdance.net
The small audience was abuzz in the lobby before the work even began. Excited banter, nervous giggles about “seeing all of my friends naked,” and assertions of being “totally fine with that” gave away the attendees’ underlying attitudes toward the upcoming nudity in the piece. With this fore-knowledge (and subsequent dis/comfort that arose) I realized the machinations of the work were already in operation, asking us to confront and question our individual assumptions about viewing the nude body in performance.
When it was time to begin, the performers asked for a volunteer to be led in first. Some attendees expressed concern about being singled out—this early on the individuality of the experience was apparent. We were led one by one, eyes closed, through heavy curtains into a dark space thick with incense. Standing there, our guides spoke in low tones to us individually, suggesting images for meditation. They then left us to lead other audience members in. We were instructed to leave our eyes closed until a loud ding sounded, at which point the five performers, standing nude amongst the scattered audience, were revealed.
As they stood still, the audience milled about and took in the installation: the room was filled with not only nude bodies, but also light beams scattered from huge silver mylar sculptures, and white crepe paper clumps. The audience had agency; this was an immersive experimental work, not a sit-quietly-in-a-dark-theatre performance…