Structured to show how “freedom from these conditioned ways” is his personal response, the performance piece contrasts segments of projected 1950s educational film (with a few shots of James Dean and pin-up girl Betty Page thrown in for good measure) with lots of interpretative-style dance set to mostly four-on-the-floor beats from artists like Kanye West, MGMT, The Shins, Florence and the Machine and T. Rex (thanks to Brown for helping me ID the playlist).
Often Brown seems to be dancing out the lyrics to the songs. As he maneuvers through his personal evolution, his angst-ridden style is clearly also an indictment of the conformity of standard social norms as demonstrated by the good little children in the film clips, who are helping their parents but being creatively stifled; or navigating adolescence with “defense mechanisms: rationalization, projection and negativism,” in a reel (amusing to watch today) with a male voice-over, obviously shown to the kids and perhaps their parents to “help” them navigate this troubling time in their lives.
Brown’s dances are unrelentingly energetic.
Using a base of Hip Hop moves, he windmills and reaches with his arms, spasmodically whips his head back and forth and in circles like Willow Smith, vogues, kneels, rolls on the floor and pops and locks. Most of the drama is in the upper body. Occasionally there is a touch of more lyric movement as in modern and even a touch of ballet-like sauté arabesque and grand jete. Each segment has its own costume variation, beginning with sneakers, jeans and an American flag and moving towards barefoot with shirts, pants or trunks. At one point he hides his head inside a black turtleneck, which he proceeds to strip off and use as a prop.
Obviously a fairly skilled dancer, the angst he is feeling is clear. Interspersed in between the projections and dancing, he also recites the whole of Hamlet’s soliloquy (his accompanying dance segment involves using a skull as a prop) and Ophelia’s mad scene.
One song lyric stands out in my mind, I think it’s from “Cosmic Dancer” — “I danced myself out of the womb, I danced myself into the tomb.” A final still projection is of a stained glass window, followed by the words “FOR WE ARE ALL THE SAME.”
There’s a lot of very “fringey” talent and originality on display in this very packed 45 minutes. The challenge for the performer (and for us) is to come away with a coherent vision.
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