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Impressions of: National Intimacy Month featuring Chelsea Murphy and Magda San Millan, B.S Movement & the feath3r theory

Impressions of: National Intimacy Month featuring Chelsea Murphy and Magda San Millan, B.S Movement & the feath3r theory
Melanie Greene/Follow @MethodsDance on Twitter

By Melanie Greene/Follow @MethodsDance on Twitter
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Published on November 21, 2016
Photo: Yi-Chun Wu

DANCE NOW Festival at Joe’s Pub

2016 Dance-mopolitan Shared Artist Series presents National Intimacy Month

November 4 – 5, 2016 @ 7:00pm

Collaborations between: Chelsea Murphy and Magda San Millan, Bryan Strimpel and Shaina Branfman of B.S Movement and Raja Feather Kelly of the feath3r theory 

Similarities between art-making and lovemaking drive the impetus for National Intimacy Month, a DANCE NOW commission for the 2016 Dance-mopolitan Shared Artist Series at Joe’s Pub. The evening includes choreography and performances by Chelsea Murphy and Magda San Millan; B.S. Movement: Shaina Branfman and Bryan Strimpel; and Raja Feather Kelly | the feath3r theory. The night moves seamlessly as one collective piece with no intermission as artists overlap and appear throughout each other’s work.

Upon arrival, the audience is given 3D paper goggles and encouraged to take an intimacy quiz. Condoms and lubricant are later distributed while Kelly chats about quiz results and fires off a spastic mime sequence inspired by Jessie Spano’s caffeine addiction episode on Saved By the Bell.

The show begins with a woman sitting on the floor, her back to the audience. One by one, ten individuals (both men and women from all three groups) step into the stage-left spotlight. As if plucked from different pages of a clothing catalogue, they wear flannel, workout, or casual attire.

A woman in a black blazer talks to the audience while two women in brightly colored costumes are in the background. One has a drawn on brown beard.
Sara Gurevich in National Intimacy Month. Photo: Yi-Chun Wu.

Collin Ranf from the feath3r theory reminisces about a Coca-Cola commercial. “I want to be in love!” he proclaims before greedily chugging a bottle of fizzy brown liquid. These declarations periodically disrupt the flow of the evening, shifting gradually from hope to discontent. “There is no more intimacy,” Ranf yells while snaking around tables, away from those who wish to silence him.

Sara Gurevich (also of feath3r theory) lectures about women, intimacy, and social media. She explains the status of each presenting group to reveal or validate the types of intimacy we can expect to witness, whether between close friends, partners, or lovers.

One woman, in blue overalls and a drawn on brown beard holds her partner whose legs are wrapped around her waist. The partner wears a fuschia romper and has two pigtails.
Chelsea Murphy and Magda San Millan in National Intimacy Month. Photo: Yi-Chun Wu.

Murphy and Millan, a platonic satirical duo, unpack shame in performance. Millan dons a drawn-on black beard and dusty blue overalls. Murphy hops around in pink overalls and two symmetrical side ponytails. There is no need to speculate how performance shame lives in their bodies. They talk us through every moment of their neutral vs. shame exploration. ‘Neutral’ dancing offers basic tendus and straight arms. ‘Shame’ dancing includes sexual groans, gyrations, high-pitched moans, and Murphy’s confession that “My shame is that I’m cute.” This display conveniently places their performance shame into a classic, sexually suppressive female/male trope.

B.S. Movement shifts the energy on stage with a splash of syrupy melancholy. They move as if with one heartbeat, magnetized by each other's centrifugal force. Branfman twists underneath Strimpel’s curved arm while he ricochets from a soft pocket of her hip. With beautiful frustration, they stop and start, sloshing about like forgotten laundry.

A man lays face down on the floor while a woman uses her arm to push off his back. She is in mid air.
Bryan Strimpel and Shaina Branfman in National Intimacy Month. Photo: Yi-Chun Wu.

Earlier, Grevitch revealed that Branfman and Strimpel are engaged to be married. “Consider their intimacy at home and how it may manifest on stage,” she says. On cue, these considerations bubble up as tension builds from the duo’s weight sharing and release.

The show concludes with the five dancing pairs and the audience wearing 3D glasses. Dancers replicate a simple mirroring phrase to the Spice Girls’ “2 become 1.” The glasses create transparent prisms and specks of light that are disorienting and mesmerizing.

National Intimacy Month is an ABC guide of how to watch and experience dance through a lens of physical intimacy. It’s accessible to all viewers by presenting digestible layers of conventional affection that exist at the nexus of movement and familiarity.

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