Most of us are aware that Earth is the only known planet to harbor intelligent life, but rarely take the time to think about it. It’s deep, but not profound; it’s comfortable and still exciting. It’s the foundational concept of Performance and a Party, a simple and powerful piece about the magic and mystery of our planet.
Handing out postcard-sized pictures of “the pale blue dot” (an iconic image of Earth taken on February 14, 1990 from 6 billion kilometers away) the artists in Performance and a Party offered a few words to set the night’s tone, reminding the audience that our little speck of dust holds “everyone you’ve ever knew…everyone you’ve ever hurt…every hero and every villain…every saint and every sinner.” Elia Mrak, one of the dancers and visionaries of the night, spoke with a sparkle in his eyes, rousing everyone’s sense of awe at something so simple and true. Mrak imparted the audience with deep gratitude for this special spot in the universe, a simultaneous feeling of insignificance and exceptionalism, and a confusing and thrilling blend of sadness and happiness.
Mrak’s words hung in the air as he and dancer Hannah Wendel began skipping around the room, running in a circle beside the curve of audience members, seated on plush cushions along the floor, like the orbit of a planet or the cycle of life. Quickly their movements became hectic, running and jumping, in a frenzy of motion. They laughed, a crack of whimsy shedding light in reminding us what it is to be human.
Halting their revolution around the floor, Mrak and Wendel stood still, staring at their fingers, hands, arms, in wonder. Running their fingertips over their skin with renewed appreciation. Faster now, the piece continued with many shoulder rolls, bent-legged candlesticks, hugs, loud deliberate breathes, and eyes closed in introspection. Mrak and Wendel had a way of celebrating humanity in their oscillation between frantic and thoughtful, eccentric and gentle, complicated and joyful.
To close the night, Mrak offered words of intention and community: him, Wendel and DJ Vasilis Zlantanos created this performance to break out of “tribalism,” to share space with new people, and create a thoughtful diverse community around art and the wonder of life. Mrak invited everyone to the dance floor, to move, groove, and improv with the good vibes Performance and a Party inspired.
There was one big elephant on the dance floor though. Performance and a Party was held at The Collective, an exclusive social club in the midst of Amazon-land. It was a beautiful, aesthetic space, taking up one square block of South Lake Union – a great spot for a performance, but not one for a “diverse community.” Membership at The Collective is $320 to start and $120 for every month after. This “urban basecamp for mind, body, and soul” seems to include not much more than weekly performances, “spa-inspired showers,” “communal guitars,” and “conversation nooks.”
Basically a playground for tech workers, The Collective is a mostly harmless, if eye-roll worthy, addition to Seattle. But using this venue for Performance and a Party is noteworthy because it stands in direct dichotomy to the essence of the performance. The Collective is the epitome of exclusivity and privilege. I even overheard an employee make fun of somebody for not being a “member” and having the audacity to ask for a drink at their bar. It appeared that the bounds of our shared humanity on this pale blue dot stop and start with $320 to drop on communal guitars.
Performance and a Party was all in all a good experience. Mrak, Wendel, and Zlatanos’ message was beautiful and their dancing was genuine. But art does not exist in a vacuum. The fact that it was held at The Collective mattered. And though I will rarely blame dancers for performing wherever they get the chance, if it wasn’t wrapped in the trappings of privileged space promising kinship and spirituality, I would have enjoyed Performance and a Party so much more.