Piacenza Gets Personal

Peggy Piacenza’s new solo work, Touch Me Here, opens this Thursday, November 20, under the crumbling balconies of Seattle’s Washington Hall. Jimi Hendrix once played here, and Billie Holiday, but some of the windows are now boarded up and giant chunks of plaster have fallen from the intricately carved moldings. For Touch Me Here, the stage is dark and the audience sits in a half-moon configuration facing the side of the theater. Piacenza stands on a brightly polished wooden dance floor, dressed in a wildly-patterned floral jacket and bright pink stilettos, her head topped with a bobbed wig and fingers caressing an unlit cigarette. Despite the disguise, the venue, choreography, music, and narratives in Touch Me Here are essential Piacenza, and her performance imparts a personal history and ethos as naked as the hall around her.

 

Peggy Piacenza is old school. Spanning more than 25 years in the Seattle dance scene, Piacenza has created works with Pat Graney and the groundbreaking contemporary dance company 33 Fainting Spells, and recently performed in Dayna Hanson’s The Clay Duke at On the Boards. Her work is frequently bold, challenging audiences to watch and think about dance out of traditional boxes, and this new solo work extends that edginess. Touch Me Here incorporates spoken word, live music by cellist Scott Bell, singing, and film into a multi-medium explosion of onstage activity. It is deeply, sometimes uncomfortably, personal to watch—a moving illustration of an artist’s most intimate thoughts and moments.

Peggy Piacenza preparing for Touch Me Here Photo by Tim Summers
Peggy Piacenza rehearsing Touch Me Here
Photo by Tim Summers

At the beginning of Touch Me Here, Piacenza is facedown on the floor, pink heels swaying back and forth as she crosses and uncrosses her bare legs at a low, slow rhythm. Later, the music of Bell’s cello, played live from the back corner of the room, echoes off the walls of the theater while Piacenza walks around the room as she talks about life—sometimes to the audience, sometimes to herself, sometimes to unseen characters. She plays several roles in the piece, which gives the work an eclectic, sometimes scattered feeling.

 

A performer has to be brave as hell to be this honest onstage, and Piacenza owns the movements and spoken words in Touch Me Here with astonishing intelligence and mettle. At the end of the piece, Piacenza stands in the center of the stage, her blouse partway open and exposing a bare breast. She does not completely disrobe, which heightens her vulnerability, but stares out as if daring someone to ask a question, or make a statement. Maybe someone will.

 

Touch Me Here runs as Washington Hall November 20-22. Tickets are available here.