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The Scariest Christmas

We performed at a big show in December 1999 that was truly outrageous. Although there was a great deal of work leading up to this -- choreographing, rehearsing, worrying, and costuming — it was all worth it because the experience was so intensely interesting. After all, the show was called "The Scariest Christmas." You may be wondering, what is the Scariest Christmas party? Well, in Seattle, where there is a huge subculture of young people known as Goths, when the Goths all want to get together and have a Christmas party — well, it’s kind of scary! Everyone who came to this show was decked out in black leather, vinyl, plastic, rubber. They wore corsets, extra tall boots, stockings and garters, and sported all kinds of tattoos and body piercings. Hair was primarily shiny black with occasional purple, green or fuchsia streaks. It was stiffly sculpted in every imaginable configuration. An occasional platinum head could be seen in the crowd. Six-foot models with white-white faces bumped into you at every turn, encased in designer Goth ware. One woman wore a corset sculpted from something like barb wire! The models' exotic makeup and hair was professionally coiffed by the artists in the dressing room.

Set to the ambiance of classical music, there were performances by contortionists, and shadow dancers, venders selling collars and leashes for your mate, lip rings and shiny silver bones for your nose, tattoos, tarot card readings and Goth photography. Thirty prizes were given away for the scariest costumes. Some men were dressed like Frankenstein monsters. The atmosphere felt like a Star Wars bar or perhaps Dracula's castle. Entertainment took place on two different stages, on two different floors with a third-level balcony. The downstairs was decorated like an enchanted forest; the upstairs was supposed to be heaven, in silver and white. Various performances and a dance band occupied the first floor and performers and a show band were on the other. A thousand people showed up for this party, paying about $27 each for tickets. We were the fifth of five different dance acts opening for the nationally-known show band The Genitorturers, performing on the upper level. Pendra the Sex Astrologer was acting as our MC. I think we must have been hired to be the Angels that bring in the light . . . We were all dressed in white and gold and performed a candle dance trio.

Between you and I, dear reader, we were very intimidated at first. It was not our everyday scene and the average person in the crowd was not much older than 21. I tried to convey to my two dancers, Sara Teller and Corinne Hollister, just what kind of an event this was, but until we got there, we didn’t understand it fully. We weren't really dressed in our best Goth. We felt short, middle-aged, square, and uncoordinated (in front of all these young and arty types). We tried pointlessly to mark out our dance and do a sound check on stage while the lighting technician was practicing a green strobe effect for another act. We couldn’t keep our footing. Hopefully they won’t mistakenly use that strobe on our dance, I thought.

I felt like captain Kirk in one of the Star Trek movies, where the old guard walk into the picture in the beginning looking a little worn next to the new generation of polished Star Fleet officers. Underneath, we knew we had the expertise and a killer dance if we could just find a place to get dressed. In the dressing room all the models were stretched out and taking up space. It was a jungle of curling irons and ashtrays. Calorie-less cigarettes are big with models with bean-pole bodies on platform shoes. We were nervous and awkward with the unfamiliarity, the New York bustle and lack of space and air. We ended up getting changed in a hallway. Finally with makeup, costumes and our props assembled we felt the glow of confidence and professionalism return. Now,all we had to do was get the candles lit without catching the curtains on fire and and without burning them down to nubs before our introduction. Oh did I mention this was my first candelabra dance?

Our dance began on cue. I walked onto the stage first, very slowly, with a ten-candle candelabra on my head, wearing a golden blindfold (now that's a scary image). I looked like blind justice standing alone in the darkness. The audience went nuts screaming and cheering ! I thought to myself, this performance was going to be extremely intense for my two students waiting to enter from the wings. I worried they might totally loose their place in the music. The arena before us was a sea of heads and shoulders. When they walked onto stage, another roar rose from the audience into the smoky darkness. Slowly, the dancers crossed in front of me, holding candles in each hand. They settled on bended knee, facing out into the night, awaiting the next musical cue that was barely audible through the screaming cheers.

The music we had chosen for our entrance was the haunting end piece from "Inner Dances" by Steven Flynn. It sounded like lonely wind growling on the desert, then moved into shamanic tones with chimes. When this piece faded, the body of the dance was to a cut called Marco Polo, by Lorenna McKennit. I stood with my hands in two fists held out to the sides of my ears for a couple of minutes into the dance. Suddenly, at a precise moment, my attending dancers ripped off my blindfold, threw it out at the audience, then quickly bowed their heads in submission. I stepped forward and threw what had been hidden in my fists into the air. All around us, silver splinters of glitter rained down, illuminated by the candle light. All I could see for a few moments was those tiny slivers. The crowd went crazy! We then hit them with tight hip accents, sensuous swaying figure-eights and riveting glances in orchestrated directions. Then we did belly rolls as we start singing -- yes, singing! -- along with Lorenna Mc Kennit as our torsos folded side-to-side like serpents! The Goths went nuts! The two candle dancers flanked me as I soloed with some fast hip shimmies and mad spins. The candles on my head dimmed during the spins but, when I stopped, they brightly blazed again, dynamically intensifying our presence.

At the end of the piece, the two dancers came downstage and slowly lifted a white muslin sheet lying hidden at the edge of the stage. I lunged forward as they drew the sheet up slowly. I was a floating head of candle flames. Slowly I was enveloped, seemingly swallowed up by the folds of fabric until my headdress illuminated the sheet from behind, turning it into a shadow screen. The dancers were silhouetted within it's frame. They knelt and slowly blew out all the candles save for one. They held an intimate moment with the outline of their faces close to one another as if they would share a kiss. As the wind sounds returned, they snuffed out the last candle together. There was nothing left but darkness and a thunderous boom of unrelenting applause.

Just like in those Star Trek movies, the stars always win in the end! We were all aglow with our dance's success and many of the models and performers that seemed so scary in the beginning kindly and gently complemented us on our dance. Carmel the producer (standing by with a bucket of water) was very jazzed and Pendra the MC made an interesting comment to me. She said we brought a much needed element to this event. The reminder that all the trappings of the look we cultivate is one thing. It’s called “form”, but then their is the “content” that we thirst for, so often left aside. The Goth culture may be a dark culture, but even the Goths need a little candle light.

End Notes

We stayed to see a bit of the Genetourtuers. Wow! What a fabulous performance they put on!


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