The edge of intimacy: artist and audience share emotions and desires at ACT’s Bullitt Cabaret

The more I watch KT Niehoff’s work, the more I fall in love with it. This weekend I went to ACT Theater to watch the final performance of Glimmer, a project by Niehoff, the Artistic Director of Lingo Dance, to create a more tangible intimacy between dancer and audience.

I was completely blown away by the performance. The venue, dancers, makeup, costumes, movements, lighting, band, music, all elements were a perfect match for each other.

Before the show started, when the band “Ivory in Ice World” was crafting the background music and everyone was enjoying their beers, all dancers were dispersed over the cabaret interacting with the audience members. While I was waiting for my husband to come, one of the showgirl dancers named Ginger – or Lola – (her name changes depending on her mood) stopped by my table and started to chat. “What’s your name?” she asked. I told her my name and she replied, “Beautiful name, but can I call you sweetie?”

As the goal of the project is for “artist and watcher to confront each other” and “exchange their personal histories and desires,” ACT’s Bullitt Cabaret provided the most appropriate space for that interaction. First, there was no geographic distinction between stage and audience. Dancers performed everywhere from the main floor to the stairs; from the balcony to the doorways. Second, there was an actual proximity between the dancers and the audience. It was common to see watchers making way for dancers to pass through.

The show started and it was one surprise after the other. We never knew where the dancers would come from or go to. On top of that, performers would sometimes act, sing, scream or laugh, bringing elements of unexpectedness to the show. The dance moves were not beautiful. Sometimes they were violent, sometimes sexual and sometimes disturbing; however, all movements had a common characteristic: everything evoked proximity and intimacy – both between dancers and the audience and among the dancers themselves.

KT Niehoff surprised me with a beautiful voice. She shared the stage with Ivory Smith and her band, Ivory in Ice World. Niehoff’s high-pitched voice complemented Smith’s deeper tone, and the soprano/contralto duo worked well. The band’s pop sound, combined with sound effects and lighting brought a sense of suspense and intensity to the performance.

Lingo and Ivory in Ice World will be performing Glimmer at ACT’s Bullitt Cabaret Thursdays through Saturdays until May15. This is not a show for kids or people who feel uncomfortable with nudity, but if you are fine with that, I can guarantee: You’ll be blown away.

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Lesson from Lady Gaga

When I first heard of Lady Gaga, I was intrigued. Where the hell does she come from? Who is this person? To me, she seemed the kind of artist who was fabricated with the sole purpose of creating buzz and money. She looks like this random person discovered out of nowhere and is now omnipresent in every radio station and in the minds of every YouTube viewer.

As I couldn’t handle my own curiosity, I sought to read more about her story and found it fascinating. What’s intriguing about Stefani Germanotta (Gaga’s real name) is the transformation that led to the creation of Lady Gaga. The character Germanotta incorporates – conveyed by her makeup, wigs, wardrobe, dance moves, voice, videos, behavior etc. – is cryptic, controversial and at the same time, mesmerizing.

The New York Magazine recently published a great article about Gaga’s story. The magazine describes Gaga as a “self-invented, manufactured, accidental, totally on-purpose” pop star. Contradictory? Yes. But accurate. The part I didn’t know about Lady Gaga was the effort she put to become what she is today. While it is true that she is a product of the industry, it is also true that she wouldn’t get where she is now if it was not her will power and drive to become famous.

I found it interesting to discover that not only did Germanotta create and transform herself into the Gaga character, she also transformed her own body to became famous. She realized she was over-weighted to be a pop star, so she got thin. Her nose was a little too big, so she got a nose job. She knew that if she was blonde, she would have more chances to succeed, so she got her hair dyed. Her name was way too complicated, so she chose a better one for herself.

While the success in Gaga’s case came from a mix of personal effort, personal talent and – most importantly – luck, her story taught me a lesson: there is no such thing as to be born for success; no one is born with the success gene in their DNA.

When you are a kid singing in a choir, and there is always that cooler girl who sings way better than you, you tend to believe that you just don’t have the talent. The cooler girl, of course, was born for singing. What I’ve been learning is that the cooler girl was probably taking voice lessons secretly while everyone else was envying her. She just wouldn’t tell anyone.

Success doesn’t come out of nowhere and is not written in your genes. It involves determination, will power, meeting the right people and, sometimes, luck. Next time you see someone who is more successful than you, think about what this person has done to get where she is today. It may give you another perspective about your own success and you may think, well, I can also do that.