by Emma Elsmo for The Dance Journal
Strolling up to The Patio at 10:30 PM for Brian Sanders’ Fringe Festival work Plunge, I had little idea what to expect. With neon lights and beach props filling the unconventional bar-performance space, the distinct sense of confusion and excitement was clearly shared amongst the audience members. Having seen Sanders works in the past, I knew it would be groundbreakingly eclectic and entirely captivating, but nothing could have prepared me for the cultivated experience that was Plunge.
Pre-performance antics happened all around as one dancer go-go danced on a table and another slid around above us on a transparent water-filled barrier. The performance started in true Sanders fashion as the trio of performers entered the patio area sporting white jumpsuits and retro sunglasses. The politically satirical work began with the dancers miming their way through Sander’s self-tailored version of history. Through a seamlessly structured costume change, the dancers were suddenly 50’s inspired fashion icons dancing their way through a complex love triangle. Defying gravity through lifts, and expressing tensions through overdramatic facial expressions and gestures.
The magic of Plunge continued as the performers pushed the audience’s focus around in an ever-changing manner by setting up an elusive stage pattern. Moving from stairs to chairs, the dancers used every bit of unorthodox performance space to execute gasp-educing, high-impact movement. The cheeky costumes further enhanced the experience as the vintage-inspired swimsuits played into the beach themes. In seconds, the dancers went from being on the ground to being elevated above with giant beach balls and large cuts of cellophane. In these moments it was clear Sanders accessed historical influence from artists such as Doris Humphrey and Lois Fuller respectively by using fans to create billowing shapes with the cellophane and underlighting to enhance the colors.
The performance continued as his dancers climbed onto a large platform wearing translucent mesh bodysuits carrying stuffed cats to be dipped in water miming the musical tidings of Tyga rapping about trying to get one’s pussy wet. The satire was enhanced further when the two female dancers stuffed large cushions on their hips to mock the sexual nature of music and life today by twerking their over enhanced features. The “large hip-sters” and “wet pussies” had the bar filled with laughter until the tone quickly shifted to shock as the trio suspended themselves from the train tracks with a death-defying intensity. The acro-inspired movements proved to be the perfect climax to the already expectation shattering performance.
Sanders so cleverly forced the audience to interact with the space throughout Plunge by having his dancers hanging from train tracks, partnering on swings, swimming in buckets, and dancing on platforms above the audience. At any given moment it was mandatory to discover where the next dancer would be and immediately move to the best viewing vantage point. But above all, through the flips and splits, this performance managed to create a parody of the world we live in so fantastically, and mock it so keenly, any viewer could feel connected to the brilliance that is Brian Sanders.