REVIEW: Gender-bending, nudity, voguing, a Prince song — all part of transgressive Walker show.
When the Trajal Harrell-led quartet of fearless performing artists finish their show at Walker Art Center, the aisles are strewn with discarded costumes, the stage seems to have been through the wash cycle and it is easy to feel mentally drained.
The bracing and eruptive one-act has the unwieldy title of “(M)imosa/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church.” It is a coruscating work that absorbs and disgorges a raft of dance and performance histories.
“Mimosa” runs for two hours and 20 minutes with no intermission, which is epic by Walker standards. It could be condensed, since moments of luminosity are sometimes followed by lethargy. Still, one does not need to be a performing-arts habitué to be taken in by its daring.
Harrell, the Bessie-winning choreographer and soulful singer, presides genially over a production that is performed by him and international trio of fiercely outré artists. There is drag diva François Chaignaud, whose opening number, through the aisle, is as profane as it is funny. In grand operatic tones, she crudely commands us all to have sex.
Chaignaud often performs with Argentinean dancer Cécilia Bengolea, whose first appearance in “Mimosa” is in a flesh-colored bodysuit. Her turn is both evocative and querulous. Her breasts and a penis are visible under the costume. Bengolea performs in very high red heels that allow the hermaphrodite figure to be on pointe even when crawling, like some pre-historic creature, across the floor.
Cape Verdean performer Marlene Monteiro Freitas does a daring and very funny turn as Prince, lip-synching his “Darling Nikki” (imagine Prince as a topless woman with penciled-on facial hair).
“Mimosa” is part of a much-lauded series by choreographer Harrell that explores and mashes up different performance histories. Specifically, he has drawn on the Judson Church dance movement, which was prominent in New York in the early 1960s, and vogueing, a black, gay dance style captured in the film, “Paris is Burning.” Both movements show up under black light at the Walker.
The theme of this year’s Out There series is identity and myth. The hard-to-shake images are primal and provocative, and open to interpretation. That, friends, is a 21-century form, still unnamed, that comes after post-modern dance.
Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390 • On Twitter: @RohanPreston