You can still go see this show! Final performances are Friday, April 24 and Saturday, April 25 at 7 pm. Tickets here.
Say the word Warhol and it’s impossible not to have a million and one expectations around who Andy Warhol is/was, what his art is/was, what the world is/was in relation to him. At this point, the man himself is probably more notorious than the Campbell’s soup cans he famously painted.
So, when I first saw—on Facebook, of course—that Raja Feather Kelly was presenting a dance titled Andy Warhol’s 15 (Color Me, Warhol) at Dixon Place this April, I thought I knew what I was in for. I imagined an evening of the Warhol faces I had seen in Raja’s promo videos, coupled with some of the highly physical, creature-y dancing I’d come to expect from the former Dorfman dancer. I thought Andy would be referenced as god and hero; I expected showmanship and performativity and dancey dance.
The wonderful part about coming with these expectations was that the entire evening exploited them. Even the beginning of the show did so: rather than going directly to our seats, the audience stood around chatting onstage, beers in hand. A Lana Del Rey musical interlude by Elaine K. purported to be separate from the show; Kelly’s performers started talking and Beth Graczyk (a stand-out performer of the evening whose excitable, squirming persona was oddly captivating) ordered pizza for the audience on her cell phone. As she asked us if we would eat it, the boundary between “truth and illusion,” as Kelly called it later, was blurred. Was this for real?
I asked myself that question many times throughout the performance. Kelly sat among the audience in the second row and would play the role of pushy director, calling out his performers on their singing and ordering them around. When the performers engaged in “random acts of humanity” throughout the show, running and screaming crazily in an improvised, chaotic fashion, they too seemed to be playing heightened versions of themselves. Most of the choreography was also exaggerated and appropriated, as Kelly pedantically explained to us. A prime example: movements from Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring were overlaid with the lyrics from A Chorus Line’s “I Hope I Get It.” Yes, it was as hilarious and ridiculous as it sounds.
Later, movements from the movie version of A Chorus Line were performed in Warhol-face, and there was a section based on So You Think You Can Dance with a hint of America’s Next Top Model (Raja = Tyra) mixed in. This was all fake and performative and not real, and yet somehow, Kelly and his performers enacted it in such a way that I was genuinely bummed when Nik Owens and Amy Gernux—my chosen favorites—were voted off the stage. They deserved to be stars, gosh darn it!
The commitment of the performers and its director made this performance work. These were people baring it all onstage: sending video letters (beautifully shot by Laura Snow) to Misty Copeland asking for some of her turnout; performing raunchy ten second solo dances; furiously rubbing purple powder on their faces; doing achingly slow arabesques on relevé.
We got to watch these hopefuls have their Warholian fifteen minutes, full of gumption and hopefulness in this Broadway/downtown dance/TV show, taking risks and going there and never making the conventional choice.
Taking a cue from the performers, I surprised myself: when the pizza came, I ate some.
Photo by Elena Light.