Meg Wolfe‘s New Faithful Disco combines a modern-dance feel with snippets of ’70s club music in an intimate piece that explores relationships in the dawn of the decade’s sexual revolution.
Barefoot and stoic, Wolfe and fellow artists Taisha Paggett and Marbles Jumbo Radio (formerly Rae Shao-Lan) emerge from gray-blue blankets spread over the small REDCAT stage. The three crumple and straighten the quilts with their toes like children arranging their beds. Maria de Los Angeles “Cuca” Esteves‘ soundscape of bubbles forming in water completes the feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world and one another, fixated on forming a comfort zone. As the music evolves into disco, they are made aware of each other and the dancing begins.
Jerking and gliding to repeat rhythms of clips from popular disco songs, each takes her turn performing a solo as the other two are left dancing together in the background, rising in the sidelines before melting back away in shadows. The duets begin tentatively in unison and then advance to mirrored movements. A caress of the arm becomes a gentle stroke of the thigh as the dancers revel in self-discovery. Flowy, then crisp, the choreography switches from individual routines to group performances during which the three take a moment to find each other as if forgetting they had entered a night-club together.
Wolfe, Paggett and Marbles are bathed in Ellie Rabinowitz‘s lighting design — soft yellow switches to a sharp blue, then a rosy pink to match the beats playing overhead. Each change in tempo signifies a new intensity. The dancers prove or lose themselves, cycling through progressively freeing actions of swift kicks and twirls.
Suddenly they don helmets with large, demanding antlers shooting vertically upward. This symbolism of masculinity allows them to claim their place in a man’s world, stepping out into a natural setting that leaves the club behind. Their shift into this environment is primal.
Crickets and ambient quietness overcome the now-fading water sounds as the trio’s actions are stilled, only to be brought back to life in slow-moving statuesque positions. Moments before and after these frozen images of comfort and closeness, they hop, lie down, rise and wear the previously-forgotten blankets as capes. This showcases the in-between feeling of wanting to be bold and learning how to be.
The scene is strange and feels long. Nothing is obvious.
Taisha Paggett’s staccato yet bouncy dancing matches the sound in a way that shows the most vibrancy and confidence as she helps define the completion of her transition and ability to let loose and enjoy her night out with her friends. The antler-hats come off and it’s pure movement.
The audience cheers and the performers even crack a few smiles expressing an outward joy. Together they revitalize the feeling many associate with disco as a night out of fun and freedom. Once they show they are no longer afraid to express what they want, the three establish themselves as adults who have come to know and come to terms with who they are on their journey through the dance. There is a satisfaction in going along with them through their turbulent stages.