Friends, Romans, Random-Humans-of-the-Internet lend me your ears! For I have had a life changing experience. LIFE CHANGING, I tell you!
First off, I love dancing. I love watching it, I love doing it, and I have a great respect for anyone who is either better or worse than me (if we dance at the same level, I'm not sure how I feel about you).
So naturally, when The B Man ask me if I wanted to go to a dance show that may or may not turn into a dance party (he wasn't 100% sure), my response was "Hells yeah, brotha!" And off we went to the glorious Ace Hotel in Manhattan to see The Dance Cartel's ONTHEFLOOR.
We ordered some cocktails and then made our way down into the basement where the door to the gym says this neat thing:
The Ace Hotel is an amazing place filled with classy, hipster, glory and is totally deserving of a post all of its own (note to self: do post on The Ace Hotel). But we weren't there to enjoy the ambiance, we were there for some dancing, man!
We passed the gym and entered one of the basement bar rooms.
Everyone was milling about with their drinks, bopping their heads along to the beat. The vibe was not dissimilar to that of a European Discotheque if you arrive embarrassingly early: you know it's going to get cool, but now you have too much time to think about what you are wearing (this may or may not be something that actually happened to me).
Bass-heavy music thumped and videos projected on screens about the room and gave us glimpses of what we were in for. There is literally a warning that says something to the effect of: if a body is flying at you, move. It is made very clear this is not going to be your standard proscenium setup and you should be prepared for that.
It is also made clear you are to do whatever you want during the performance. One of the video's many disclosures states, if you want to dance you should dance, if you want to stand in the corner and be lame that will be tolerated, and if the mood strikes you and you want to take off your pants, that will be celebrated.
So even before the performance had even begun the space was established as one of bohemian experimental artistic freedom. And that is basically my favorite combination of words next to soft clothes puppy party.
As the show began, the audience formed two lines, Soul Train-style, down the middle of the room. And this was when the magic began.
I'm not 100% certain how they got there, but suddenly the dancers were in between the rows of spectators dancing their asses off. There was no introduction, no easing into it, everything was all out and full on right away.
Being that I'm only 5'2" and there were people in front of me, I didn't have the greatest view of the whole picture, but I could see at least one dancer at a time and these guys were incredible.
They were lycra-clad, electric, and their energy was infectious.
The one thing they lacked was the traditional homogenous look of a dance company and THAT IS A GOOD THING. The diverse array of body types, heights, weights, hair styles, and ethnicities created a gorgeous mishmash that in spite of hundreds of years of dance tradition, managed to move individually and in unison all at the same time. Watching one dancer was just as exhilarating as watching the whole group.
The dancers were delightfully skilled and seamlessly moved between sharp explosive synchronicity and fluid, flailing, mayhem.
The choreography, by Ani Taj, was fresh, exciting, and brilliantly executed by her team of dancers. I once had a choreographer/dance teacher/mentor who used to quote good old Stanislavsky and say "Generality is the enemy of art." She said this to get us to stop dancing like floppy muppets, but Ani Taj's choreography and artistic direction of this show gave that phrase a whole new meaning for me. The movement wasn't always sharp or even really specific, but it always had intention, nothing was ever general. Even if they were dancing around like floppy muppets, they meant to and the aforementioned floppy muppet dancing was a specific piece of the artistic puzzle.
The choreography was humorous, cheeky, powerful and dripping with bawdy sexuality. It walked the line between sexy and raunchy, and hit that sweet spot between celebratory and goofy.
ONTHEFLOOR was the closest thing to the Happenings of the 1960s I've ever seen and it does a perfect job mixing art forms. It would get me to the brink of understanding just before it disoriented me again.
Just when I thought I had a handle on the dance show, they threw singers at me.
And then, when they got me all revved up and I thought I couldn't possibly keep from dancing all over the place, the line between audience and performer disappeared and the whole thing dissolved into a totally kickass dance party.
This isn't the kind of dance party where you have to be concerned about looking good, or being cool. It's a dance party where it is just as acceptable to be pole dancing as it is to be doing pique turns across the floor in a tutu.
I am completely in love with what The Dance Cartel has accomplished with ONTHEFLOOR. But the true brilliance of this performance is that it's not really a performance at all, it's an event. By giving the audience permission from the moment they walk in to behave in any way they feel compelled to, The Dance Cartel has thrown out the rules of even traditional audience participation. No longer does the audience wait passively to be invited to take part in the performance, they are a part of it from the moment they get their hand stamped at the door.
Each audience member is a wild card given permission to do whatever they want and as such, it's pretty much impossible for ONTHEFLOOR to be the same show every time.
What if someone doesn't get out of the way of that body flying at them? What if someone jumps into an already choreographed dance and starts doing cartwheels? What if someone takes their pants off?
While for the most part the audience behaves in a civilized manner, the banishing of the traditional audience-performer relationship makes ONTHEFLOOR more like the Happenings of the 1960s than the performances you can see in theaters all over the world.
ONTHEFLOOR is the dance show I've always wanted to see, the party I've always wanted to go to, and The Dance Cartel is the company I've always wanted to dance for. If I could, I would force everyone in the world to go be a part of this (not joking), but this blog is the closet thing I've got.
If you're in New York, or even remotely close by, I urge you to check out The Dance Cartel's website and get yourself to anything they are doing! ONTHEFLOOR will be at The Ace Hotel again on May 9th and June 20th, so go experience this madness!
I've got my eye on The Dance Cartel and I can't freakin' wait to see what else they come up with!