|Christian Rodriguez. Image found here|
I understand that the show needs to start with the worst performances; every concert starts the same way, too, with the top headliner going last. But some of these pieces were so bad that I wish they hadn't even been included. The DC Contact Improv group was exceptionally strange, featuring two older men and a young woman. It was like clumsy modern dance, and I already hate modern dance (calling the act of rolling on the ground "art"). Every move looked like a mistake, and since there were three of them, at least one person seemed to be left out at some point. The music would die down, and you kept hoping it was over, but it kept going on and on. They mentioned a weekly jam in DC on Sundays; I don't think I will be attending. Kat Arias' solo bachata performance was equally as awkward; at least it didn't last long. There was also a zouk piece by a group that had only had a few hours to practice. I understand you want to give people the opportunity to perform if they have that interest, but don't subject people who paid hard-earned money for the Festival to beginner BS like that. And the two women who performed an Afro-Brazilian dance had choreography that little girls in their first ballet class could do, just waving around fans with fabric attached to them.
Many amateur dancers lack showmanship, and this show was no different. The group from Mia Zouk from Miami rarely smiled and didn't even look like they were having fun; only two of the women looked comfortable on stage. One girl practically fell! And Margarita, a bellydancer whom I recognized from last year, was dancing with a scarf and seemed to pay more attention to it than the actual movement of her hips. Her performance reminded me of ribbon dancing in gymnastics, minus all the cool gymnastics moves.
Another part of the show which I truly despise (and this is true of the performances I saw in February, too) is that many of the women are objectified in their scantily clad outfits, while their male counterparts are completely clothed.The women in Mia Zouk wore leotards and blazers while the leads wore comfortable t-shirts and pants. The women from Classe Dance Company wore shear bodysuits, only covered by beading and jewels covering their breasts, butts, and lady bits. A tango dancer's slit was so high you could see her panties during most of the piece. Dance can be sexy without insisting that women are nothing more than pieces of meat to be ogled at. And don't tell me that dressing like that is empowering to women. Women can feel strong, independent, and beautiful without having to expose themselves like that. There was even a man (I think his name was Valencio Franco) who objectified himself on stage! He wore thigh-highs, spanx, and stilettos while dancing like a stripper (I half expected a Flashdance moment when he brought a chair on stage). While I can say that he was truly owning his dance, and that I could probably learn a thing or two about dancing in heels from him, I'm not sure his ensemble was necessary to show off his moves.
And while I appreciated Shaina Cruea's pole dancing performance, it was not nearly as graceful as the piece I saw in February by Marion Crampe. Shaina reminds me of the dancer Misty Copeland or tennis star Serena Williams: while they are incredible athletes, their muscular bodies are not as elegant as their Eastern European counterparts. Shaina's huge tattoo across her upper back, and the tramp stamp below it, did not help anything, either.
Here's a video of Shaina Cruea from a performance earlier this year:
Compared to that of Marion Crampe:
There was also a man dressed like Tarzan who did a pole dancing routine. I realize pole dancing is hard to do, but it's simply not as impressive when a man does it, since men are naturally stronger than women (physically!). It was kind of gross how much he sweated; someone had to go up on stage and wipe the bar down! Ew...
And another thing: most of the performances were either an inch from public fornication or weird artsy shit. There was almost nothing in between. Art of course is subjective, but there are some things that are universally accepted as good art, and those that are bad or distasteful. And it was unfortunate that, just like last time around, the majority of the pieces fell into the latter category. Ben and Vanessa, a couple from New York City, practically just embraced each other and caressed each other's faces on stage; at one point she was on her knees with her face near his crotch (BJ, anyone?). David Norton, who I remember from last time, danced salsa with his partner; she kept grabbing at his clothes and his face, and at one point straddled him! They're both too old to be doing that in public. These sort of displays of affection need to be saved for the bedroom.
Not all of it was really ugly, though. I thought that the acroyoga performances were good, even though there were costumes and "acting" involved that distracted me from truly enjoying the art form. But most of the time the male partner was on the ground in order to base the female partner, so unless you were in the front row, you couldn't really see him. The organizers should have been projecting a video of the performance onto the larger screens so that the entire audience could see the whole thing. But I digress...
The performance lasted so long that the social dances did not begin until after 11pm. I was so exhausted at that point (I had woken up at 6am on Saturday) that I didn't even bother getting changed and attending the dances. I just set up my yoga mat and did yoga for about an hour until my friend was ready to leave. I love open dances, and it was unfortunate that I felt like I couldn't even attend because I was so tired after a full day of workshops and then the unnecessarily long (and late starting) show.
I feel bad being so judgemental, especially since that's not what the Interfusion Festival is about. But I truly didn't feel like I got my money's worth this go-around, and if I had my choice, I wouldn't pay for those performances; I'd be more than happy to leave them out entirely and start the social dances at a more reasonable hour. The room wasn't even full, and people were leaving early in order to get ready for the dances later on, so I know I'm not the only one who doesn't prioritize the performances. I hope the organizers take the hint and reconsider whether the performances are truly necessary for guests to enjoy the Interfusion Festival*.
*The Festival cancelled the show for Sunday, but replaced it with a 2-hour cuddle party. I can't say that that was an improvement. I didn't attend that; again, I didn't pay to lay on the floor with strangers.
And it wasn't just the performances that I didn't like. I took a tantra class with Luba Evans, hoping it would be as good as the tantra workshop I participated in last time. But I didn't feel nearly the connection or the intimacy that I experienced previously. First of all, Evans talked about going through life without judgement, both regarding yourself and others. But then she went on to mention her heavy weight more than once during the workshop. That sounds like self-judgement to me! She also told us to let go of any negative feelings we had inside, and encouraged us to express them vocally. People throughout the room were shouting and screaming; as a happy person with few negative feelings pent up inside (and a very self-accepting person, too) I found this exercise uncomfortable and unsettling. This was NOT the wonderful energy or sense of community that I felt at the previous festival.
And while I liked learning about Thai massage, the teacher, Daniel Hoang, was not my favorite. Don't get me wrong: he is talented and very good at what he does. But his sarcastic attitude came off as rude and judgemental. If he saw someone doing something wrong or out of order, rather than going to that person and helping, he'd just announce to the whole room, "I don't know what some of you are doing right now, but it's not good." That's not helpful. Also, he specifically said he wouldn't walk us through every move he showed us. Most of us had never done Thai massage before, and he was at the Interfusion Festival as a teacher: that's his job! And the fact that he suggested we put blindfolds on is irresponsible and unsafe, especially for beginners like us who didn't know what we were doing. I'd like to find out more about Thai massage, I'd prefer to work with a different teacher in the future.
It's unfortunate that the majority of my Interfusion Festival experience this time around was negative, to the point that I do not think I would consider going again (unless perhaps for just one day). Unless some major changes are made, the organizers are going to lose a lot of interested people. I hope they take notes!