As a tense circle of twenty people sit around the edges of a Chelsea NYC living room a woman's hands are held in front of my face as her fingers create a wiggling screen inches from my eyes. The beginning of a social dance morphs into confrontations, seductions and missed connections.
The dancers smile and hips sway as they switch partners. A quartet of dancers, two couples switching partners through the dance, move seamlessly from group dances to solos to duets and the always unexpected, interaction with the audience. Athletic lifts are executed with fingers brushing the tips of a crystal chandelier. A small Asian girl shimmies alone in the center of the room and then stops, bends her knees and there's a bit of surprise and tense anticipation as she slides her panties off from beneath her skirt. Then after some orgiastic rolling on the floor she takes off another pair of panties then another and another as the small audience roars. Then she throws one pair at a stern looking audience member sitting in the only high backed carved wooden throne-like chair in the room. She becomes a diminutive Salomé soon sliding under his chair, feet first, sitting briefly with her head in his crotch. Then she slides all the way under and tosses, from her safe hideaway, a barrage of all manner of panties into the center of the living room/stage.
The company describes the piece as "small dances in small spaces for big people--a series of dances that are performed in intimate spaces. Four dancers form liaisons with the audience and each other, stretching the boundary of closeness between strangers and inviting the audience to intimately gaze at the unfolding movement. The work asks questions of how intimacy is perceived in unexpected environments and how public performance is understood within private spaces.”
Part of the project is to sit afterwards with the choreographer (Edisa Weeks), dancers, and other audience members, have snacks and discuss the piece. When asked, Weeks suggested the idea for the project came about because she feels people are disconnected, especially in spaces like the Manhattan subways, “where you are so close, sometimes touching,” she said, ”but you pretend that no one is there. People don't interact.”
The Brooklyn based choreographer, teacher and videographer has an impressive bio. She grew up in Uganda, Papua New Guinea and Brooklyn, NY. She trained at the Alvin Ailey School and has a BA from Brown University and an MFA in choreography from New York University where she was an Alberto Vilar Performing Arts Fellow. She’s danced with Annie-B Parsons Big Dance Theater, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Dance Brazil, Jane Comfort & Co, Reggie Wilson Fist & Heel Performance Group, the Kevin Wynn Collection and Spencer/Colton Dance and others. From 1991 - 2001 she co-directed Avila/Weeks Dance with Homer Avila.
She founded her own company, Delirious Dances, in 2003. Dancing in this Chelsea NYC living room is part of its mission to bring dance to diverse audiences by performing in a variety of spaces including storefront windows, swimming pools, hospitals, senior centers, galleries as well as proscenium stages.
Liaisons has also been performed at Take Five at the Clarice Smith Center (MD), The Yard in Martha’s Vineyard (MA), and various living rooms in Berlin, Germany as part of the Haus der Kulturen der Welts 50th Anniversary Celebration.
During this performance the tension around the circle slowly broke down in various ways as different walls and barriers were penetrated if only temporarily.
There was also the anticipation of how audience members would respond when the dancers approached them to interact. Some were pulled into the middle of the circle to dance. Some were asked to support a dancer doing difficult balancing moves. Others were the focus of seductive movements and looks, asked to take a dancer's hand or just withstand a dancer’s gaze as they stood in front of them and looked them in the eye for a longer than normal amount of time. That shift back and forth between the position of an audience member and a participant seems to change how you perceive the movement and all of the other people in the space.
Liaisons is accompanied by orchestral versions of romantic tangos and folk songs conducted by Mantovani like Whatever Lola Wants and Besame Mucho. The movements are sometimes extremely sensual and various kinds of seductions create different kinds of tension in the room. They are also playful and very funny at times as well as scary because of some huge athletic movement, big lifts and strength moves by the two very strong male dancers in such a small space.
It's interesting how confrontational it can seem to just demand to be acknowledged by a stranger, even non-verbally. And no words were spoken in this piece other than at the very end when a dancer offers a tray or orange slices to the audience.
Liaisons explores many questions yet the most poignant seems to be: is it a confrontation or an invitation to say, only with presence and movement, “I am here now. You are here now. Let’s acknowledge each other in this moment.”
For more info on future performances check out the website for Delirious Dances: http://www.deliriousdances.com/