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.

Lingo Dance gives a heartbeat to SAM’s art

Last Thursday I listened on the radio that Lingo Dance would be doing a special performance at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). As I left the office earlier that day, I took the afternoon to check them out.

I don’t go to museums very often and some of you may know that I’m a performance art geek. So when I say that Lingo was by far the best exhibit at the SAM, you know that I’m biased.

Favoritism aside, the Lingo performance was indeed a breath of fresh air in the museum. Five dancers “installed” themselves among SAM’s permanent collection as kinetic sculptures.

At first, I felt a little uncomfortable in staring at the dancers as if they were a picture or sculpture. However, as time passed and I witnessed other museum visitors shamelessly gazing at the performers, I realized, you know what, these dancers are here to be watched anyways – I’ll just take my time and admire.

Good decision that was. Like in visual arts, you can’t actually “get” Lingo’s performance at the SAM unless you take the appropriate time to watch, to appreciate. The performances certainly added warmth and life to the museum, a place in which the artworks generally don’t have a heartbeat. The more I looked at the dancers, the more they attracted me. I didn’t want to leave the museum.

I had an especially pleasing interaction with one of the dancers named Kelly. As I entered the room she was performing, she smiled to me and continued doing her dance. I didn’t want to distract her, but I wanted to tell her that I was enjoying her performance, so I took one of the brochures from the museum, wrote her an encouragement note and placed it next to her business cards. I hope she had the chance to read it. If someday she reads this post, would love to have her comment.

I also met choreographer KT Neihoff, the artistic director of Lingo and creator of the project. She was discreetly checking on the dancers, giving them water and ensuring the performance was running smoothly, like a mom taking care of her kids. She was happy to know that I was enjoying the performance, but at the same time, recognized that some people might have been confused with the whole thing. In fact, there were some people who were like, “what the hell is going on here?” Others were laughing; others ignored, while others – like me – watched and appreciated.

To avoid any confusion, the performers were appropriately labeled like all the other artworks in the museum (with information about artwork title, artist, materials, date etc.) Here is an example of what was written on the sign next to a performer:

  • Title: Aaron
  • Date: Right now
  • Materials: Muscle, sweat, human hair, ethic, challenge
  • Artist: KT Niehoff

Lingo’s presentation/exhibit is part of a bigger project called A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, a project by KT Niehoff to create a more tangible intimacy between audience and artist. According to Lingo’s Website, KT’s investigation of the relationship between the performer and the witness led her to seek out more potent environments that ask both artist and watcher to confront each other as unique individuals who bring to the exchange their personal histories and desires. If that is the goal of the project, KT just nailed it. Hats of to her!

Lingo will be at the SAM the upcoming Thursdays (March 25th and April 1st), from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. If you have the time, go check them out.