Performance artists making out in the lobby, belly-dancers popping out of the ether, acrobats flexing pool-side, Mia Doi Todd serenading the audience from atop of the fireplace — Nicole Disson's performance art extravaganza THE SERIES descends upon the rooftop of the Standard Hotel in Downtown L.A. to inject a bit of wildness and wonder into a breathtaking location attempting to get its groove back.
The eighth and final (for now) installment of THE SERIES last week combined dance, performance art, music, video and shtick in an eccentric production worthy of a Matthew Barney film. Each act was rather short (one to eight minutes) and Ms. Disson played the role of emcee in character as “Susan,” directing the audience from one performer to the next like a surrealist's version of America's Got Talent.
The result was an overwhelming onslaught of beauty that sucked in the audience before they realized what was happening. Of course, many guests were privy to the program but many others just happened to wind up near the pool when the dancers started splashing or on the couch when the artists started making out.
This desire to create a new platform for performance — one that blurs the line between audience and performer and that has the potential to surprise an unsuspecting group of people — characterizes much of Disson's work and keeps THE SERIES exciting. Her choice to invite dancer/director Mecca Vazie Andrews of the group MOVEMENT Movement led to the theme “The Sky's Gone Out.”
Dozens of performers created site-specific works as a response to that theme. Mia Doi Todd played an intimate set, standing with two percussionists on top of the rooftop fireplace. Kevin Litrow (formally of the band 60-Watt Kid) performed a few meditation rock tunes from his solo project. Ariana Delawari (of David Lynch's label David Lynch MC) combined music and video to set the mood for entrancing belly-dance by Russia. Our most divine moment of the evening was spent watching two sparkling dancers slither and stomp around one another to a brand new track by Triangle Method while floating in the saline pool.
Producer/performer Nicole Disson talked to LA Weekly about what she looks for when choosing artists to direct these one-night high art hootenannies:
“I look for directors who are up for the challenge — someone who is willing to work in an unconventional setting and excited by the concept of THE SERIES: to create a new platform for the performing arts in Los Angeles, by merging social nightlife experiences with a variety of art (theater, music, dance, and so on) and, in doing so, introduce artists to collaborate, creating new pieces with one another. I love working with people who have a background in theater, be it dance, acting or directing, who work well with a wide variety of personalities and can grasp the overall picture. When the director can communicate their overall creative intention effectively to the cast members and have a clear understanding of what they want, it makes my job as producer so much more enjoyable and easier.
Mecca is the first returning director I have had on THE SERIES and working with her is an utmost pleasure. She has such a wonderful sense of timing when building the overall show and knows how to hold an audience's attention. Not to mention, her ability to execute her job effectively has allowed me to enjoy myself as an actor again — which has been a personal goal of mine with this production since the beginning.”
We also spoke with Mecca in the days leading up to the event:
What has been the biggest challenge in pre-production thus far?
The biggest challenge thus far is all technical — just making sure that everything is arranged and in place, lights, levels, mics, props. Tis my only concern really. Everyone involved is pro styles and wants what is best for the event. The peeps aspect is super easy when everyone is super talented and the most top drawer of down birds and teddies.
The biggest surprise is that so many rad and amazing artists are contributing their artful dandy magic to the event — free of charge. It's loaded with talent. And they are all so positive and down and amazing. I'm a lil wide-eyed sometimes that all these folks trust the sometimes puzzling puzzle piece arranging process of creation journey that we are one. They're bold and brave and relentlessly inspiring.
How has the location — the rooftop of the Standard — influenced the work you've created for this space?
The process for creating site specific work begins as soon as I see the space. Since I have frequented the downtown Standard since its opening, I have been inspired to make moves and work there. Given the opportunity to direct the series by Nicole is such an amazing treat because the roof top is already aesthetically terrific.
First, I decide which spaces make sense logically for audience sightlines, sound and lighting. Then, I consider whether I desire to contrast the style of the space artistically or use what the space offers and feature it. For example, the pool is radical! I think it's just asking for 2011 future Esther Williams to emerge from it like always. So I've created a MOVEMENT movement experimental theater piece surrounding the pool with dancers and actors inspired by the likes of La Dolce Vita. It's such a sexy pool so why not rock a sexy artful dance that's all wet and fanciful?