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AUDIENCE REVIEW: Keith Hennessy/Circo Zero

Keith Hennessy/Circo Zero

Keith Hennessy/Circo Zero

Performance Date:

Company / Show / Event
Keith Hennessy/Circo Zero

Performance Date

Venue / Location
New York Live Arts

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Dancer and writer http://thefleetingbody.blogspot.com/

Freeform Review:

The most compelling aspect of art is that it’s unexpected and one can never fully prepare for what will come. Keith Hennessy/Circo Zero took the participants of this performance through obscene, poetic, and symbolic human interactions that were both chaotic and fluid; but managed to produce a distinct and overarching thesis of our tumultuous political and economic climate by way of tactile, human absurdities.  


In Turbulence, Hennessy gathered a cohort of artist to exist in their most vulnerable states of being. The framing of identity, in contrast to the flippancy of our sociopolitical anatomy, is deconstructed, reconstructed, and then shredded until we were simply left with literal nakedness.


Hennessy, and his beautifully diverse cast of movers, created a performance space that challenged the traditional concept of how creative works are presented in theater settings. As an onlooker, who naturally creates premeditated expectations of what I intend to see, found myself shockingly surprised once I discovered that the structure of the performance was to investigate the idea of having no specific structure at all.


As I walked into the theater, I noticed that the artist were scattered amongst the stage, in no clear formation or pattern, and with no consistent costuming. They were having casual conversations with one another and with those who came to perform their roles as audience members. The theater was constructed so that the lighting booms were exposed and all of the technical aspects involved in producing a show were visible to the audience. Even an Apple Macbook, used as the sound engine, was placed on the floor so that we were able to see one of the artist mix music that transitioned from ear piercing, to ethereal, to everything in between. Electrical cords were in a disheveled pile around the laptop, but luckily, caused no disturbances within the piece.


As time elapsed, I began to recognize that this no longer was about the artist and the audience but that it was about a collective of individuals, in one room, sharing an experience together. It was less “we are the dancers” and “you are the viewer” and more we are all participants in this psychedelic amoeba of wild happenstance.


As I sat in one of the middle, front row seats, I studied the space and the many interactions thoroughly. The set had cardboard boxes duct taped to the floor, in a linear progression, from down stage to upstage and along the wall. On stage left, there was a trapeze contraption hanging from the ceiling with a yellow rope attached and another green rope hanging to the right. A pregnant black woman, with shoulder length locks, was weaving her legs and arms around the yellow rope. There was a melodic quality to how she gestured her limbs within and around the rope. Two women were confined within a turquoise fabric with a glittery, gold scarf covering their face, and vision, as they flailed around the theater with no set intention. A robust and jubilant black man came up to me and asked if I wanted a “fake healing”. I unquestionably declined. I later learned, by way of Keith Hennessy nonchalantly explaining to several people in my section of seats, that a “fake healing” entailed absolutely nothing. He stated that nothing would be wrong with the person getting healed and the healer had no healing power at all. I found this statement comparable to many facets of life, more specifically, the overall concept of this piece.


Many peculiar antics were happening on the stage, around the stage, where more patrons were seated, and in the audience section of the theater. Several of the artists created small, energetic impulses that developed into uncontrollable and spastic movements. There were moments when they began to mimic one another and other times where they performed chaotic partnering work. The cast walked around the room asking for members of the audience to join in and many, unabashedly, accepted the offer. All of this was being initiated under the realms of improvisation.


As the piece started to settle deeply into its raucous nature, various uses of text began to arise. The robust black man was streaming a roll of “danger do not enter” tape across the stage. As he was walking about, he said, “Don’t be a lazy artist; be serious about your shit”, which caused me to hiss out a calm chuckle while equivalently taking in his statement with great seriousness.


As the maelstrom of quirks continued to magnify, a man with fair, brown skin stepped forward, with a card board box, full of writing, and began to read: “Love, despite its toxicity and violence, can bring us closer to the possibility of expressing human tenderness.” He repeated this phrase over and over and over again until his words intoxicated my mind. As he was stating this powerful phrase, a scene, that depicted the act of water boarding, was being taken place on stage right. At this point, audience participation was a normal occurrence in the evolution of all that was happening. One of the artists and member of the audience had a large jar of what perceived to be water and another glass of vinegar and proceeded to pour this over a man of the cast., Ruairí Donovan. A thin blanket was draped over his body but it was visually obvious that he felt the effects of this torturous act.


After several minutes of subsuming this heinous infliction, Donovan propped himself up, with the assistance of the dancer imposing such suffering, with a glossy look of bewilderment in his eyes. The two then were handed a microphone and began to cough viciously into it so that it projected the theater with a grating sound. It went on for so long that it created disquietude in my body.


On an entirely different side of the stage, a pyramid, consisting entirely of audience members, was being assembled. Once it was complete, the gold and glittery shawl reappeared in multiples and was being cloaked over their heads. I found this image captivating and appeared reminiscent of the pyramid on a one-dollar bill and the shawl looked to be a representation of currency and opulence.

One of the more sexually revealing aspects of the performance developed as the dancers began to engage one another with intense eroticism. Their carnal instincts heightened as they were rubbing each other lustfully, sucking and fondling on each other’s nipples, and thrusting themselves on top of each other. There was a nonconformity and repudiation to how society normalizes heterosexuality. Anything outside of that realm is generally labeled as other.  

Another daunting moment transpired as a member of the audience volunteered himself to perform one of the more audacious acts. He was squatting side by side with two of the dancers and began to pee on the floor. Releasing bodily fluid on stage requires remarkable fearlessness. They then began to sit in their own fluids while other members of the ensemble began to join in.

Zany acts continued and later progressed into several members of the cast and audience being completely unclothed. They then dumped a bucket of water, onto the stage, and partook in a slip and slide soiree. The performance ends with this staggering moment and leaves me with the thought that everything is significant but really has no meaning at all. Everything that was performed has specific implications but simultaneously means nothing. The dichotomy is puzzling but compatible with the essence of life.   

“You have a responsibility to choose”, states a woman from the cast, as she was reading a book, on stage, during the performance. She grabbed the microphone and stated these words. She was signifying to the audience that everything is a choice and those choices have great impact. Whether you choose to sit and observe or come on stage into the unknowingness of this piece, you have to make a choice. I found this to be in direct alignment with the purpose of this show. We choose to accept the political and economical structure of our society. We know that there are many aspects of our humanity that are skewed and corrupt, but we mutually agree to accept it. Hennessey and his collaborators took us through this strange journey of preposterous antics and augmented them so that we could clearly grasp the clout of our actions and how they impact our local and global society. He also makes a point in saying that none of the dancers are free, even if it appears as such, but that they are performing freedom. We justify ourselves to fit into this landscape of normalcy while also trying to maintain a sense of our own individualism. We suppress our most outlandish aspects of ourselves so that we can function in society and not be ostracized as an anomaly. Hennessy and his cast anarchically displayed a multitude of incongruities to juxtapose it amongst the sociopolitical ethos of present day society.




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