Put your name down on a few dance mailing lists and it will happen: you’ll be invited to a party/performance/ showing/gala/fundraiser. We press people typically don’t cover these events because they’re small, sometimes invitation-only, a little informal about the art, often insider territory, and because the liquor and money flow freely. (Yet we cover gallery openings.) But the party-performance scene seems to be heating up. April Sellers, the subject of this review, is a special pro at the arty party (she and Judith Howard won a Sage Award for their House of Big Love), but Three Dances’ annual birthday party performance (in March) is a fun and boozy spectacle, and Deborah Jinza Thayer and Rosie Simas have been accompanying their frequent showings with crudités, party games, and sometimes wall art. Even theater performances can feel like parties. Get to the Bryant-Lake Bowl (where you can eat and drink as you watch) on the right night and the enthusiasm of the avant garde dance crew will make you feel like you’re at a homecoming pep rally with some really interesting cheerleaders. Ballet of the Dolls seems to be trying to create a cabaret feel at their Ritz Theater—and succeeding (check out their French cabaret in late October). Even the Walker’s getting into the act with Faustin Linyekula’s November performance. All this is to say: don’t discount the dance party. Lighthearted and conversational, these events are an easy introduction to the sometimes hard-to-understand dance they promote. Bring a friend and a stack of small bills (for drinks and donations) and you’re all set.
April Sellers has the dance party down. She and her friends know how to decorate, dress, and greet: this is not your college kegger. And then there’s the dance. Gettable enough for the girls who’ve had one too many pinot grigios, Sellers’s work mines fairly simple stereotypes—the repressed girl, the natural woman, the fertility goddess—for all the postmodern postfeminist zest they’re worth. I’ve seen Sellers’s work onstage and in the wild (so to speak), and while her stage work is often more complex and more technically difficult, I prefer the ease of her work outdoors. Women Bathing, which Sellers showed last night, gained immeasurably from the sound of crickets in the background (even the enterprising beetle who crawled up my back added something).
And then there’s the nudity, which outdoors, at someone’s home, has a reality that stage nudity never attains. Sellers shines with the female nude. Never coy, never exhibitionistic, her playful nudes will make you laugh at the same time as they inspire you with the beauty of flesh. And there’s a slight, but not at all bitter, political edge: watching Sellers and Judith Howard kick and thrash out of their togas in Sap Rising might make you think of how repressed we still are, but it’s more likely to evoke a simple pleasure in their freedom.
Enjoying dance in someone’s backyard, drink in hand, is apt to make you feel a little of that freedom yourself. There’s no rule stating that serious art has to take place only in serious settings. We do have a prejudice against mixing play and art—but, thankfully, it’s a prejudice that April Sellers and many others are challenging.