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Saturday, May 18, 2013

"The Firebird, A Ballez" at Danspace Project

This lesbian princess expects this Firebird to perch on her finger! (Photo: Christy Pessagno)

I think what I love most about Katy Pyle's queer appropriation of The Firebird--in the Firebird, A Ballez, concluding tonight at Danspace Project--is that almost nobody's trying terribly hard to live up to critical standards, to tailor themselves to any outsider's approval.

The first person we meet, the Narrator (Sacha Yanow) isn't declaiming her lines in a well-trained theatrical voice. She's just talking. She could be your lesbian girlfren' from around the block with a big grin and bit of gossip on her tongue. From what I can see, she's having a quick word with an audience filled with people who are a lot like her. So, yeah, she is your lesbian girlfren' from around the block!

Pyle, herself, for all her training in ballet, isn't the princess you might expect from the traditional Firebird tale and its balletic renderings. In this "ballez," she chooses to look like a cross between an animated ragdoll and a cake left out in the rain, but she shows no hesitation in stalking her desired "tranimal" Firebird (Jules Skloot) or lifting him numerous times like a stevedore--a stevedore with blue and purple hair. Dance technique- and plot-wise, she's more will than grace.

I love the chorus of lez and trans princes* in their ballet school black tights and white t-shirts and don't want them to aim for "perfect." Their earnestness and willingness and sense of togetherness in all things move me like little else can. That's a team any princess--this one included--would be lucky to gather close.

I love the space that Pyle and Skloot, with his modest charm, make for ballet to contain imperfection and feeling by reeling it back from mechanical exactitude and just plain giving it to the people. So that when the vampirish Sorceress (Cassie Mey) finally makes her electrifying entrance, with flapper-like bob, velvet, floor-sweeping coat and barely-there costume of straps and rhinestones, we see her flashy technique as a cold, heartless, relentless, manipulative thing with no room for love.

There's also the fancy of Hedia Maron's video, projected on the church's altar wall. It conjures a sense of place--a formidable castle rising on craggy heights; a classic garden with statuary and orange trees; a raging pyre--that we might find illustrating a volume of kid's fairytales. This naivete turns my heart over and turns me childlike. The excellent Queer Urban Orchestra, conducted by Nolan Dresden, brings the Stravinsky in a thrilling performance from St. Marks's balcony.

This evening-length version of The Firebird, A Ballez--long in the dreaming and making--has arrived. Tonight's performance (8pm) is sold out, but it's definitely worth a try. The wait list starts at 7:15pm.

[*Princes: Effie Bowen, Zari Esaian, Ariel "Speedwagon" Federow, Leah Hafezi, Sam Greenleaf Miller, Francis Rabkin, Mary Read, Lindsay Reuter, Lollo Romanski, Silky Shoemaker, Sacha Yanow and Nyx Zierhut]

Danspace Project
Second Avenue at 10th Street, Manhattan

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