Of the many forms of artistic expression that exist, dance is the most primal. Bodies move to rhythm, either heard or imagined, expressing thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Or none of those things. By combining dance with an openly queer aesthetic, Out To Dance, a dance double-feature curated by Gay City Arts, presents a very primal experience for the viewer, filled with emotion both raw and subtle.
Out To Dance is composed of two distinct works, each with its own flavor, united by a common theme of relationships and the emotions they can bring.
The first piece, the other side of silence, was created and performed by Becca Blackwell and Grace Carmack. The pair, under the harsh, bluish glow of the stage lights, offer a raw, emotional presentation. It’s minimalist to an extreme, with both performers in drab, matching costumes, and no music at all. For most of the performance, Carmack is still, expressing a series of heartfelt thoughts and emotions in lament of a lost love. Blackwell undulates around the stage, interpreting Carmack’s words with spare, but fluid movement. It’s impossible not get caught up in what Carmack is expressing, thoughts about how everyday actions now seem dreadful and impossible after the loss of her unnamed love. the other side of silence climaxes with the two dancing at once, both together and apart. The whole piece is beautiful, in the same way that a rainy day can be beautiful, and moving, in the way that small, profound silences can be.
The second piece, Dogged, was created and performed by real-life couple James Kent and Dylan Ward. Inspired by their experiences in their own relationship, it starts with the pair dancing to music and a computerized voice-over explaining the best steps to take in order to get someone to do what you want them to do. The voice over is alternately funny and challenging, and produced nervous laughter from the crowd. As their performance continues, Kent and Ward also alternate, expressing lust and violence, openness and control.
Two particularly touching, subtle moments happen when they’re not dancing.
The first happens when they’re conversing on a set of stairs. “What’s your story,” Kent asks Ward, which develops into a conversation with each telling the other their coming out story. Ward then laments the importance of the coming out story for it’s importance in queer culture, as if, before one comes out “they’re like the universe before the Big Bang, a formless, shapeless void.”
The other happens when Kent begins to serenade Ward with his ukulele, which turns into a poignant duet. Shortly after, though, they transition to several moments where Kent and Ward play fetch with one of Ward’s shoes, reminiscent of the opening voice-over about manipulation and control.
The two are clearly talented dancers and performers, and interact with a long practiced ease. It’s almost a voyeuristic experience watching them perform, as if we’ve been granted a secret look inside the dynamics of their relationship.
Out To Dance continues its short run May 16-19 at Gay City’s Calamus Auditorium. Tickets are $18 for General Admission, and $12 for students and seniors. For more information, visit Gay City’s Arts Season page at gaycity.org/arts-season