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Outsider Dancing - Fresh Fruit Festival

by Richard Penberthy
June 22, 2006
June Havoc Theater
Abingdon Theater Complex
312 W. 36th Street
New York, NY 10018
Sean Dorsey can be contacted for tour bookings at www.freshmeatproductions.org
On Saturday night, The Fresh Fruit LGBT Arts and Culture Festival, now in its fourth year, presented works by Sean Dorsey, Artistic Director of the San Francisco arts organization Fresh Meat, www.freshmeatproductions.org, and New York experimental performance artist and choreographer, Chelsea Ellis. This is the first year that dance has been included in the lineup of events. It was clear from the Q&A session after the performances that the producers and artists are enthusiastic about continuing to have dance included in future years.

Indecision (Conflict of a Queer Mormon Girl) from Chelsea Ellis was first up. Her solo radiated good cheer as much as indecision. A black Morocco-covered book figured in the dance as a prop, representing a tract, the Law. But the dancer's spirit was lusty. She hauls in passions from all corners of the stage - literally hand-over-hand - to her embrace. Any conflict was long over by the time this dance was choreographed, and warbling pleasure had won out over contemplation and obedience to the Law. Lyrics to the music (Regina Spektor) were a repeated "I Love You"…an upbeat opening to the evening.

Want, also choreographed by Chelsea Ellis, was performed by dancer Marci Rubin and dancer/choreographer Hank Sichley, to music by Dengue Fever. This was a wonderful piece from several aspects - thematically it dealt with a couple whose expectations, whose wants, were very different. At the outset, Mr. Sichley sits shivering onstage dressed in a heavy coat, hat, and scarf, while Ms. Rubin, whose personal thermostat is obviously differently set, joins him. When they discuss, choreographically and in spoken word, their mutual attraction, they read from bits of paper - tonelessly and with neither affect nor affection - testimonials to how "lucky" they are to have found each other in the vast sea of incompatible others. But it is they who are incompatible. Her physical needs are not compatible with his, and his alpha-male sexual expression only subjugates, attempts to subjugate, her spirit. The dance closes with his question, "do you want my coat?" "No."

Creative, an engaging and strong solo, was choreographed, written, read, and performed by Sean Dorsey. Creative represents an extended encounter with the school counselor concerning gender-appropriateness. With both recorded and real-time spoken word, and a wonderful mix of music ranging from Manhattan Transfer to Johann Sebastian Bach, the tale unfolds in beautiful, multi-leveled complexity. Dorsey was a child actor, so the aural narrative comes across strong and clear. The choreography, the visual narrative, complements it - it is at once more inflected and more stylized. For example: without resorting to mime or specific gestures which would diminish impact, the details of a therapeutic "play session" and the conversation that it inspires are rendered rather in moody angularity, in on-the-dime arrested turns, in sharp, shocked head gestures. There is no holding back, the momentousness of adult judgment upon adolescents is laid before the audience. And, there is not a whisper of poor-me in the piece. It is astounding.

The Fresh Fruit Festival program proposed to present "exciting dance pieces where gender and desire mix to create an (LGBT) experience in dance that encompasses what is universal." That very universality is what most surprises here - the emotional freshness, the I-can-even-smell-the-moment recollection of pivotal experiences, realizations, we all have had. This is a very fine first series of dance in the Festival.
Sean Dorsey

Sean Dorsey

Photo © & courtesy of Lydia Daniller

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