Don’t Just Sit There: Chelsea and Magda Ask Philly To Dance Through the Shame

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by Scott Romani for The Dance Journal

The Shame Symposium, an energetic and comedic two-women show, opened Thursday, June 9 at FringeArts. Audience members held up their drinks and joked, “Should I feel shame?” in anticipation of the performance, like they were breaking the rules even though the host gleefully informed everyone at the door: you can bring your drink with you.

Chelsea and Magda, the hosts slash performers slash creators slash anything-else-you-can-think-of of the evening, entered elegantly in costumes that could rival those from a Lady Gaga music video with tall, pointy shoulders and just the right amount of gold and silver on top of form-fitting black. At first you didn’t know whether to take it seriously or laugh. Then they started talking. An hour and a half of interaction with the audience, Symposium was a wild journey through the art of shame and pleasure and the minds of two quirky and intelligent performing artists.

It began with a power point presentation you never knew you wanted—full of “math” and “pie charts” and in-your-face crotch shots. After explaining their philosophy in a monologue that was more likely to be seen on an episode of Saturday Night Live than a concert dance performance, Chelsea and Magda began to move. Chelsea slowly slid her face through Magda’s closed hands, pointing forward, like opening a vagina, to explain one of the infamous slides. It was like starting a sentence with an explanation point, and then we were off!

Each performed a solo to further explore their own shame. Magda invited a friend from the audience to improvise with her in a battle of strength that was violent and playful at the same time. There was red underwear, nudity, face paint and a board pinned with clothes that the performers would take off and put on between chest bumps and tackles.

Chelsea then entered with a rainbow top and unicorn horn on her head for her improvised solo. She leaped and hopped and jumped across the stage, declaring, “I love to jump!” and reacting to her own thoughts, sharing them with the audience before moving again.

The first choreographed moment followed, a duet between Chelsea and Magda, a song and dance number performed to an original tune that sounded like a lost track of a Beyoncé comedy album. The hook raged and celebrated: “Girl, you’re so angry / I’m angry too / Let’s get wasted on my anger.”

The duo then called another friend from the audience, Lily Kind, and asked for a demonstration on what they teach in their classes at the University of the Arts. From flailing limbs of the “child body”, to moans and mouth shapes of “extra-turnt/sensual body”, it was an interactive moment where Lily was instructed and interviewed to find the movements that made her feel shame and stay there as long as possible.

Some of the best moments of the show came when the performers reacted to what was happening on stage in an open dialogue with the audience. It was part of making everyone feel safe to laugh and feel and to get on stage themselves!

An evening that uses humor and movement to explore what makes us feel shame—and asks us to really experience it—guided by two educators with infectious personalities and fearless improvisation, The Shame Symposium is a fun alternative to a typical night of concert dance that runs from June 9-12 at Fringe Arts.

***Photo provided by FringeArts, credit: Jaime Alvarez.

About Scott Romani

Scott Romani moved back to Philadelphia after living on the other side of the state for many years. In the city of bridges, he became an adjunct professor at Point Park University and taught at many local studios including Millennium Dance Complex Pittsburgh. He has adjudicated national competitions and performed for choreographers such as Melissa Rector, Michael Susten, and Alan Obuzor. Scott earned his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh and has been published by Blotterature. His play will premier in the Pittsburgh New Works Festival this fall.

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