Help, I Don’t Want a Lap Dance!!!

Last night Alyssa and I went to see the closing night of Keigwin Kabaret at Symphony Space on the Upper West Side. Here we are with our little silver tambourines that were atop each seat’s armrests when we arrived. If audience tambourines are supplied, you know you’re in for a little zaniness!

Anyway, the show didn’t start until 8:30, so we met at Cleopatra’s Needle beforehand, where we caught the beginning of a jazz band and got some drinks and snacks.

I have GOT to stop snacking at night on chocolate martinis and french fries … I’ve gained five pounds in the last couple of weeks; Luis is going to drop me flat on my butt in my lesson tomorrow night…

Anyway, even with the fries to soak up the alcohol, the martini was rather strong and by the time we arrived at Symphony Space, we (or I anyway) were a little tipsy. When we sprinted into the lobby ten minutes before the show was to begin, and the usher asked us which show we were there for so as to direct us either to the upstairs or downstairs theater, we looked at each other quizzically. I’d completely forgotten the name… Alyssa, quicker than I, blurted out “Gender!” and the guy told us, “downstairs.” No gender upstairs, nope, all gender is downstairs…

When we got downstairs, the place was pretty full and the only available seats were in the first two rows. A bit of a tiff eruped between us and several other near-late-comers, over who would have to sit in the first row. “What are they going to be doing,” one woman shrieked? “I don’t want a lap dance!” No one up front at least seemed to know what to expect. Alyssa and I eventually ended up with the highly coveted second-row seats, I am, as it turned out, very happy to say! Note to everyone who is unfamiliar with extreme hyperactive drag king extraordinare, Murray Hill: if you’re a shy, non-audience-participation-type, DO NOT SIT IN THE FRONT ROW OR ANYWHERE NEAR IT when seeing a show that he emcees. Alyssa and I seemed to be either too non-visible and uninteresting, or else too obviously completely freaked out, to be his fodder, but an unfortunate but well-humored guy in the first row who happened to be wearing a colorful, Christmas-y sweater, was not so lucky. Nor were the people in back of us, nor the guy in back of them … but more on HIM later…

Anyway, the, as the name implies, cabaret-style show, was a lot of fun. The company’s artistic director, Larry Keigwin, was a great dancer (and really cute to boot!), and I LOVED assistant artistic director Nicole Wolcott. She was such a beautiful dancer. I so wanna be like her! Seriously, she really makes me want to learn modern now. She made it seem freeing and fun while also being based in solid formal technique, if that makes any sense, and she just moved so amazingly gorgeously in her solo, to “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks. I also really liked her duet with Keigwin, a tango-y kind of thing to French music, the first part of which involved chokehold-drop (what they’re called in ballroom anyway) after chokehold-drop. This is where the man wraps his hands around the woman’s neck and it looks like he’s strangling her, then drops her into a dangerous-looking dip. Teachers of mine have wanted to put it into my routines, but I’ve refused to do it because it seems dangerous to me (all the more so since I’m a frightened amateur who doesn’t really know what she’s doing) and because I feel like it just looks somewhat misogynistic. But, since this was a gender-bender thing and they were specifically questioning that, it worked here. Although, I would have preferred for her to do it to him a few times as well, but perhaps it is hard for a woman to balance a man’s body that way … but isn’t that what gender-bending stuff is made of…?

Anyway, the show was a combo of modern dance performed by Keigwin and Wolcott and their company, which includes Patrick Ferreri (who’s damn cute! and performed a hilarious drunk-off-his-butt riff on Tharp’s final Sinatra Suite, danced to One For My Baby, which I think Angel should DEFINITELY try out on ABT audiences next time he performs it :) ), and Julian Barnett (who did this sweetly endearing thing to a heavy mental number on overcoming being a picked-on gay kid). And, there were the cabaret performers including my favorite Mike Albo, who did this scream-inducing parody of TV show “Ugly Betty” by mimicking the gay male character who plays the slavish, somewhat whorish employee of Vanessa Williams’ Cruella deVillish boss and sidekick to her scheming receptionist, Amanda. Other dancers included Ying-Ying Shiau, Liz Riga, Alexander Gish (who portrayed a cute but frightening cherub-faced waiter who got a little over excited about a big ole butcher knife he carried around in his pocket), and Jamacian burlesque dancer Akynos, whose pasty came off at the end of her number, leading her to finish with her left hand over her breast. How do those things stay on anyway???

One of the craziest parts of the evening was when they ran this audience-participation contest, drawing three people out of the audience at seemingly random to compete in ‘sexiest in dance’ to Justin Timberlake music. Hill picked on the guy from the fourth row who was cackling loudly throughout, and insisted he come up onstage to be the male contestant. Hill kept calling him “a gay” while he was in the audience, and when he got onstage, Hill said, “Oh, I thought you were a gay out there in the audience, but now that you’re up here I see that you’re not one at all.” Alyssa and I were DYING of embarrassment; he is nuts. Anyway, I don’t know if this guy was part of the act, but after initially looking out at the audience, like, crap, what did I get myself into, he proceeded to, I swear, perform the funniest, sexiest, cutest, lewdest cheesecake / beefcake strip-tease I’ve ever seen. Afterward, Hill asked him what he did for a living and he said vaguely that he was in show-biz. Don’t know who he is, but I definitely want to see him again! I don’t know what the guy’s sexuality was — I try not to make assumptions since I’m usually wrong — but if Hill was right in his final analysis, I think it’s perhaps funniest to see straight men who are freaking out try to do strip-tease…

All in all, I thought it was fun, though, I have to say, it was billed as part of a several-part program Symphony Space is doing entitled “Gender Benders,” and nothing besides the presence of Murray Hill, who is the biggest walking talking gender bender I’ve ever seen, challenged my notions of gender. I guess Shiau and Riga ridiculed the male gaze, the former by standing at the edge of the stage doing nothing more than licking an ice cream cone, the latter by kind of “talking” with her breasts with the assistance of Wolcott, standing behind her; and there were plenty of gay men humorously grabbing their crotches and riffing on both straight and gay male identities, etc. Hill remarked that he’s never been north of 23rd Street (though I saw him at the Supper Club, in Times Square, not long ago…), acting like it’s such a big deal to be all the way uptown, but uptown is still New York City, for cry-eye. This kind of show is more needed for the middle-Americans who frequent Hooters and drool over the waitresses’ tight shirts only to have near-nervous breakdowns when people like Matt and his fellow ABT guys sing at the bar. Also, I found it interesting how the audience would go “woooo” and hoot anytime the women were onstage being ‘sexy’, but when the men were on grabbing their crotches, everyone laughed. I just think as a society in general, we’re still very uncomfortable “objectifying” men the same way we do women… Anyway, Keigwin & Co. will be performing at Skirball Center near NYU next week. I definitely want to see more of them!

Just really quickly since this post is now about 100,000 words long, Friday night, on Gia’s Winger recommendation again, I went to see “Becky, Jodi and John” at Dance Theater Workshop. Much more mellow than Keigwin Kabaret, but I found it compelling in its sublelty and bittersweet humor. Choreographed by John Jasperse and featuring him, Becky Hilton, and Jodi Melnick (all 43 years old, oddly enough), it dealt mainly with aging and dance: the dancer’s ‘aging’ body; how changing self-esteem and increasing self-knowlege alters how you present yourself and what you’re willing to do during a performance (after Jasperse asks her to do the project, Melnick goes through a long, humorous litany of problems she’s been having lately with her joints and muscles, and tells him there are certain things she doesn’t like to show anymore, such as her arms); the choreographer’s ‘aging’ mentality and how s/he’s perceived by critics and peers as “old” (at one point, Jasperse came out onstage naked, carrying a load of bricks, placed the bricks down and assembled them into a structure while another dancer read a critic’s review of his work, telling him he was too “formalist” and needed to loosen up); and the power and absolute necessity of maintaining friendships with each other over the years and across the miles (after Jasperse finishes his ‘building’ he walks to Melnick who stares down at his genitals questioningly, humorously, then they perform a beautiful pas de deux illustrating their mutual reliance on each other for physical and emotional support. Like the Forsythe and Young works I blogged about recently, this also was multi-media, using video projections, spoken word, and of course dance to explore its themes. While it was centered around dance, I still think many people could relate to the themes — to the process of aging, feeling your body begin to give, feeling “old” compared to the younger generation, maintaining friendships while people go their separate ways, etc.

Also, I just have to say, I just saw Melnick in another piece, Vicky Schick’s Plum House with Laurel Dugan, also at Dance Theater Workshop, and it blows my mind that she is 43. She looks soooo young. Not that 43 is not young of course! All three dancers did amazing things with their bodies, especially in the first part, where they’re spread out on the floor in various stretch poses. I, for one, could not have the turnout required to do some of that floor work…

Here is a picture of the lobby, where they have a splendid chocolate bar! It was the most crowded I’ve ever seen it, and I think the shows sold out all nights, so hooray for them!

Finally, I just want to point out that Dance Theater Workshop has an interesting little thing on their MySpace blog. In their playbills, they pose a series of questions about the performance you’re there to see, titled “Cat Got Your Tongue?” They are: 1) How did the body move?; 2) How did you feel during the dance?; 3) How was the piece organized?; 4) What was the dancers’ relationship to each other, to the audience?; and 5) What, if anything, do you think the artist wanted to communicate with you? I think they’re interesting questions designed to make you think about what you just saw, thereby getting more out of it. Sometimes, oftentimes, modern dance is difficult to make sense of for the average viewer, which is the main reason, I think, why modern dance does not draw the audiences that ballet and other kinds of dance do. I feel like I get more out of a performance after I blog about it, so I think DTW’s MySpace blog is a potentially wonderful tool.

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6 Responses to Help, I Don’t Want a Lap Dance!!!

  1. you said and asked:
    ” Jamacian burlesque dancer Akynos, whose pasty came off at the end of her number, leading her to finish with her left hand over her breast. How do those things stay on anyway???”

    there are several things you can use:
    1) Latex, sometimes marketed as Pastie Glue, but eyelash glue works fine too. I don’t like it. Messy

    2)Spirit Gum–oww strong, wont come off.like ever. Have to use remover to get it off which smells. I think its unpleasant

    3) double sided tape–There are several varieties–a fancyish one that you get at Rickys and is billed as being for keeping low cut dresses in place, toupee tape (yay wig store) or carpet tape from the hardware store.

    I love tape!

    and they USUALLY stay on. but not always. Such is life

  2. tonya says:

    Thanks, Delirium!!! I’ve seen that tape in Ricky’s before and thought about using it for my costume tops — think I will…

  3. M says:

    Spirit gum is the devil. We use it at ABT for any facial hair during our shows and if you are a man it either burns because you just shaved or rips the hair out if you haven’t just shaved. After peeling it off which usually takes a thin layer of skin off, you are forced to use acetone, which is basically nail polish remover, to scrub your face in the given area. You can imagine that 8 weeks of performances at Met (where there is usually facial hair in abundance) can wear your mind and especially skin very thin :-)

  4. Exactly Matt! It doesn’t sound fun at all.

    now imagine *that* on your *nipples*!

    and if you are doing 3 acts in a night–that can be three pastie changes in a row.

    Ouch!

    I’d rather risk losing one and use the tape ;)

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  6. Pingback: Larry Keigwin’s “Exit” | Tonya Plank