Wednesday, April 4, 2012

PieceMeal First Dance

The piece pays special attention to play's critical stance on gender
performativity.  The characters wear traditional masculinity as a costume or
camouflage for self-defense purposes.  As a nod to this idea of 'passing',
I've employed an excessively 'feminine' aesthetic (lace, grace, quiet
flexibility, purity, ornamentality, etc) addressing the idea of conformity
as a coping mechanism in a culture unfriendly towards gender deviance.
In First Dance, the characters seek to deviate without seeming deviant and
find revolution without the boat-rocking as they work to carve new
traditions out of a history that excludes them.

In traditional ballroom dance, gender roles are forced upon participants by
the very mechanic of the medium.  With this comes the baggage of the subtle
violence inherent in gender roles under the surface. The dance steps
symbolize cultural expectations and freedom of expression within the
confines of allowed behaviours, and in First Dance, the feather step becomes
a metaphor for finding an opening within a tradition that appears to offer
little flexibility.  I've turned Alex Moore's feather step diagram into a
recurring, overlaying pattern in order to call attention to the plurality of
modes of gender expression and relationship types that exist, but are
sometimes invisible to us.

The characters describe a notable moment in a salsa club where two men begin
to dance and their actions deviate from expectation so much that
the normally-crowded floor clears around them. As this seems
symbolic of their personal struggles, I have chosen to recreate this moment
in the composition of the installation.

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