IN OBJECT., KAIROS DANCE THEATER OFFERS A MULTI- MEDIA TIME TRIP THROUGH DECADES OF GENDER OPPRESSION
Four years in the making, KAIROS’ latest is alternately funny, thought-provoking and discomfiting, while upending cultural objectification.
KAIROS Dance Theater Artistic Director DeAnna Pellecchia says the first ten minutes of her company’s premiere, OBJECT., will strap audiences into an emotional roller coaster -- careening them from laughter to wonder to provocation to discomfort. “I’ve been accused of getting people settled into their chairs, then punching them in the face – metaphorically, of course,” she laughs.
Following a four-year development process, KAIROS’s evening- length, multi-media performance exploring the feminine experience, the spectrum of gender, and the resilience of survivors, premiered in November 2019 at the Boston Center for the Arts and will have a second run at Cotuit Center for the Arts on February 22, 2020.
OBJECT.’s three acts are driven by, and in response to, decades of the objectification of women that’s commonplace, Pellecchia says, in all threads of American culture. “Fashion ads have used images of violence against women to push products to them, music and movies in the 1980s and ‘90s (like ‘Weird Science’) twisted a generation’s perspective of ‘perfection,’ and even beloved cartoons like Betty Boop had shocking amounts of anti-woman violence and harassment,” she says. “There’s been an endless bombardment of cultural messaging to normalize this.”
The images and movement in OBJECT. reflect these tropes but also turn the tables on them. At one point, dancers wear surgical masks painted with smiles, referencing a mid-century photograph claiming the “therapy” as a way to help women feel happier. In another section, the Lucite heels popular with exotic dancers are first celebrated to show the athleticism it takes to dance in them, then weaponized to underscore their symbolism as tools of sexual provocation. “I think it’s important to understand -- or be reminded of -- the level of oppression women feel and carry every day,” Pellecchia says.
The collaboratively created choreography spans a variety of styles, influenced equally by the MTV video dances Pellecchia watched as a child, by the groundbreaking Tanztheater style pioneered by Pina Bausch, and by the adventurous improvisational work by Paula Josa Jones. Music in OBJECT. is by strong female artists like Ani DiFranco, Fiona Apple and Annie Lennox, as well as machismo-fueled songs by Beastie Boys, Robert Palmer and others.
OBJECT. is punctuated by spoken word passages, projections of historic imagery and video clips, and audio passages that are alternatingly empowering and disturbing. The effect is meant to be immersive and jarring, reflecting the modern-day penchant for swiping through social media feeds and flipping through TV channels or streaming options. Pellecchia says she aims for the show to be accessible; she creates with her working-class family in mind -- or anyone without exposure to contemporary dance. “I’m not trying to be fancy or subtle; I want my uncle to understand this,” she says.
The design of the show includes work by a variety of Boston artists: fashion designer Carlos Villamil, filmmaker Lindsay Caddle Lapointe, and lighting designer Lynda Rieman. New York-based visual artist Corinne Chase adds dimensions of texture and imagery that Pellecchia says intensifies the physical story- telling.
Despite the serious subject matter, Pellecchia says OBJECT. is first and foremost entertaining. “I think this performance evoke lots of responses; it’s funny, horrifying and contemplative – all at the same time,” she says. “Laughter, cheering, crying and screaming are all welcome responses.”
To set the stage for the audience’s experience, a pre-show performance in the gallery will focus on one of the main inspirations for the formal show: pole-dancing by competitive pole dancers Lainee Love & MaryCatherine Armstrong.
OBJECT. runs one night only: Saturday, February 22 at Cotuit Center for the Arts, 4404 Falmouth Rd, in Cotuit. General Admission Tickets are $30, $25 for balcony seats. ($5 discount for members and $2 discount for seniors and veterans. Student tickets are $10.)
Tickets are available at www.artsonthecape.org.
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MEDIA CONTACT: For advance interviews with DeAnna Pellecchia, or for photos, video and other information about “OBJECT.” contact Maegen Killeen at 413-387-9256 or email@example.com.