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6 Jan

UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW is glorious. It is ecstatic, roiling, honest, hilarious, heartbreaking and aside from one uproariously grotesque blowjob scene, nigh-on family friendly. The show, by Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, is a commision by the Walker Art Center and is the first in their four-weekend Out There 2012: Global Visionaries Festival, opening the event with bang.

Dancers in action, left-right: Regina Rocke, Amelia Zirin-Brown (aka Lady Rizo), World Famous *BOB*, Katy Pyle, Hilary Clark. Not pictured: Becca Blackwell.

It almost feels cruel to write about the show because so much wants to come tumbling out, so filled with spoilers, and this is a show where words aren’t going to cut it at all. Aside from some “las” and a lullabye in what might have been Gaelic, performed by Amelia Zirin-Brown (aka Lady Rizo) and juxtaposed to total heart-wrenching effect, words don’t work around this dance piece. Lee, an acclaimed playwright, said as much in an interview with the Walker Magazine: “But I felt like it was bad, that the movement conveyed so much more than the words did….Finally I just said, “Screw it; let’s throw it out.” That’s when the show really came into its own. It never wanted it to be a show with words, and I tried to force words on it, but it never wanted them.” UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW works because it remains that way, so devoid of the usual signifiers that ascribe value to us in our daily lives. It is just six naked people on a blank stage. Some great music, some silly pink parasols. Perfect.

Another reason it feels so wrong to write about the show because performance reviews are such a tease, they give you a little part of the show to try and entice (or disinterest) you from seeing the rest. For a show where all six female-bodied performers are naked, this is not a show about teasing, titillation, or even nudity. It is a show about being naked. In John Berger‘s Ways of Seeing, he writes that, “To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not be recognized for oneself…Nakedness reveals itself.” This dance is indeed a revelation, perhaps a beautiful reminder of our own bodies, that shocks us back to the truth of things: our lives our complicated, we hold contradictions of desire, comfort and destruction in us, we do what we must to get by. As Lee calls it in her program notes, the dance is an “imaginary utopia of of unlimited transformation,” and a utopia that exists, quite literally, under our everyday surfaces. It’s why we love our summers here, when we get to shed our layers, it brings us one step closer to the clear-eyed honesty of being naked, to seeing the world anew.

Hell, even if you don’t believe me that it’s great, you should at least trust Lou Reed on Young Jean Lee. Go see it, tonight or tomorrow, or maybe both. You’ll want to.

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