Friday, November 21, 2014

Covering up for Luke George

Dancer Luke George (above)
and a scene from Not About Face
(photos: Madeline Best)

Australian-born dance/performance artist Luke George has a pretty hearty notion of what audiences will tolerate. Never before have I been asked, as an audience member, to divest all of my belongings and don a bed sheet with eye holes that would make me look like a little ghostling who got terribly confused on her way back from Trick-or-Treating (with disconcerting, not so subtle visual echoes of chadors and KKK gear). George's current iteration of Not About Face, performed with collaborator Hilary Clark and, yes, every single person in attendance at The Chocolate Factory, has been described as:
An experiment in anonymous intimacy and fake belief, Not About Face questions the nature of the unspoken contracts between performer and audience, and accesses the supernatural and spiritual as a way to investigate how the yearning for belief can make people do many things. For this performance, audience members are robed in full-body shrouds and join a free-roaming and anonymous gathering in the performance space. We will come together. We will become anonymous. We will fake belief or believe in faking it.

Luke George
(photo: Madeline Best)

Funny thing about bed sheet ectoplasm: It underscores the earthly nature of the bodies underneath. Especially when you can easily recognize your friend or colleague or that downtown dance star by their height or their signature sneakers or snazzy boots. The quest for the intangible puts you smack up against the tangible when George directs you to huddle together ever closer, closer, closer to him and your neighbor runs into your toe.

The body also roars back into view with Clark's sudden crying jag, George's tantrums and, finally, George's lengthy, undeniably charismatic dance that concludes the performance. Transparency, here--used as a form of theatrics--is more spirited than spirit-ly.

I don't know about the "fake belief" thing or George's stated interest (see the program notes) in the behavior of crowds. Seems to me, it's pretty hard to see Not About Face, at least for its audience, as anything but an ordered experience that you consciously agree to participate in (with your paid ticket) to the extent of your comfort. Everyone covered up--that was the fun part--but not absolutely everyone followed every direction.

If you go, know that you will spend nearly ninety minutes mostly on your feet, milling around the space, wearing a heavy sheet that traps body heat. (Ah, yes, the body again....) Since it's cold out these nights, dress in layers and, before the show, leave most of them with that nice coat check person downstairs.

Sound/video/set/system programming: Nick Roux
Lighting: Benjamin Cisterne

Not About Face continues tonight and Saturday with performances at 8pm, and there's an additional show on Saturday at 5pm. Plan to arrive no later than 15 minutes before start time. For tickets, click here.

The Chocolate Factory
5-49 49th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens

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