161A Christie Street, NYC
July 5 through August 2, 2014
Presented with the enormous variety that the creative arts in New York City offer me, I find myself, from time to time, concluding that self-expression is rather highly overrated. Then I encounter something that reverses that whimsical declaration. One such event was a recent press preview of several segments from Hot! Festival 2014: The NYC Celebration of Queer Culture. If the five thrilling, outrageous, poignant, and all-in-all utterly engaging presentations I experienced that afternoon is any indication of what this nearly one month festival includes, it behooves you to attend as many of the varied performances as you are able!
A stunning dance scene from “Diaghilesque” opened the presentation -- a beautiful re-imagining of the style of Ballets Russes in Paris from early in the last century. Choreographed by Faux Pas Le Fae, director of the KineticArchitecture, the six women in this “petit ballet”, danced with only transparent gossamer shielding their incredibly beautiful bodies. They were an hypnotic delight.
Faux Pas Le Fae, next appeared in another scene from “Diaghilesque”: after an opening monologue, Faux performed a solo dance of exquisite grace. In the complete work, Faux, according to the festival calendar, “plays the role of tour guide, weaving the viewer through an array of petit ballets which explore feminism, trans issues, abuse, and primal sensuality.” That sounds a bit didactic-- but considering the lovely segments presented, I doubt the audience will be unduly hammered with polemical tirades.
Anthony Johnston followed with a scene from “Revenge of the Popinjay” written by himself and directed by Nathan Schwartz. The full work is described as “an experimental rap-horror show in which Anthony struggles to cope with the loss of his sister while uncovering a frightening link between himself, his lover, and an elusive gay rap star/serial killer targeting heterosexuals.” Mr. Johnson opened with a monologue consisting of amusing speculations on the impact of “string theory” on everyday life, and with a change of attire, performed a gay-themed rap song which paralleled commonly heard hetro versions, while surpassing them with over-the-top outrageous explicit and artful vulgarity. I’ve got to see the full performance of this show!
Doing justice to Neil Arthur James’ scene from “Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic” is a tough assignment. Attired as an insane clown with overtones of an ancient burlesque/music hall performer (with all the antiquated gestures, poses, and vocal gesticulations), he told/proclaimed a complex, but surprising lucid fantasy-nightmare scenario with relentless non-stop intensity. I have to be at Dixon Place on Friday, July 11th and see how this story ends.
On a more conventional, but no less compelling note, Danielle Abrams read/performed a monologue from “Nominee” in which she tells the story of a stay at an invitation-only artists colony somewhere in New England, and being hoodwinked into joining several minority women in building a native hut, a task for which she had utterly no interest. How Ms. Abrams deals with this situation is indeed full of surprises.
Last on this preview program was Anna Gothard and Kate Foster, known as Anna-Kate, a singing duo (in this instance accompanied by ukulele). They opened with a song from “Fear City/Fun City, billed as “a theatrical concert and play with music.” The song was an impressionistic take on a tune from Broadway’s Golden Era, in which the original gender designations are repositioned. They followed with a lovely folk-like song. These woman have presence--the kind that encourages one to listen closely.
Personally, I lack resonance with most of the cultural, societal, etc. designations that are usually applied to the Arts. Works which hit that certain spot of fresh originality and authentic artistic merit are for me plainly universal. Hot! Festival 2014 is aligned with the designation “Queer Culture” but from what I witnessed, what inspired me and what I thoroughly enjoyed that afternoon, everyone -- Queer or otherwise -- who attends this festival is in for a treat.
All photographs by Jenny Anderson.
Mr. Reisberg is a UCLA film school grad, professional singer, comedian, and bon vivant at large.