Some people dance to the beat of a different drum, but choreographer and director Faye Driscoll beats the drum of a different dance. At first, her performances seem spasmodic or juvenile; the cast behave like kids in a kindergarten class after they’ve chased Pop Rocks with Pepsi. But Driscoll often addresses adult subject matter—most prominently, sex—and her pieces are so obviously structured that it’s impossible to accuse them of being thrown together. Her work is kind of like Merce Cunningham’s, albeit filtered through Saturday-morning cartoons.
Thank You for Coming: Play, originally created in 2016, is the second part of a proposed trilogy in which Driscoll, according to her website, “extends the sphere of influence of performance to create a communal space where the co-emergent social moment is questioned, heightened, and palpable,” a long-winded and jargon-heavy way of saying that the audience participates in the show. When Driscoll brought the first installment of the series, Thank You for Coming: Attendance, to the MCA in early 2016, those who attended were instructed to sit on the floor, and some even took part in the event, whether as assistants or through contact with the performers. Audience members were asked if they minded being part of the show, a gesture that might seem polite and tender but was really a sly commentary on the often awkward protocols of everyday social interaction. The dancers indicated as much in some of the choreography, which involved over-the-top greetings followed by equally embellished demonstrations of disgust, an exaggeration of how most people act kindly when they first encounter someone they know, yet immediately talk unfavorably about that person behind their back. In other words, contemporary dance is an approximation of the phoniness of modern-day social behavior.
Thank You for Coming: Play ran late last year at BAM Fisher in Brooklyn, and a New York Times review advised that audiences should once again expect to be included in the performance. Yet whereas Attendance was focused on social politics, Play looks to be more pointedly political. Misogyny and white supremacy are explicitly mentioned; a president-elect’s name is alluded to, though never stated. Driscoll takes care to prevent publicists or critics from spoiling too much—the unexpected nature of the show is part of the thrill—but the Times review also revealed that children’s games figure heavily. The takeaway is that you can expect to have fun. For anyone who assumes that dance is stuffy or overly formal, Driscoll’s work is a welcome flip of the bird. v