Much as it terrifies many of us, change is the fiber of human existence, and dance makes that fiber sing through the human form. Through change in the posture, poses and movements of the body, the dancer tells a story of transformation – love into sorrow, defeat into victory, even death in rebirth. The theme for the first Friday of October at Elysium was transformation. As DJ Gunner Von Phoenix lifted spirits and kept the tracks and acts flowing, and hosts Jilley and Paul Woodrunner conducted a capacity audience to the swanky new leather seats of The Empire Room, transformation’s promise was in the air. It is certain to say that the artists of Elysium Cabaret changed the hearts of many viewers through their exquisite revue of the power of transformation.
Act One: Jilley – One Love | People Get Ready (Photek Remix) – Bob Marley
Can love truly change the world? In Jilley‘s striking first act, featuring a spiritual figure dancing before a female form woven of glistening silver wire amid an abstracted background, it certainly can. As the dancer whirled, commanding chromatic eruptions of light and swirling flame, the heart of the woven women glowed and a stark metal sphere resolved into a vision of the planet embraced by two soft hands of luminescent blue. Her composition of this ambitious composition was flawless, giving us a spectacle of true harmony in action, turning base metal into a beautiful cosmic embrace.
Act Two: Imrhien with Kyshra, Babypea, Mikie, Jo and Tray – Heaven Knows – The Pretty Reckless
Imrhien‘s sensual second act reminded us that not all transformations are from bad to good – and that going bad can be a hell of a lot of fun! Her act carried us through shifting sets – first, a school hallway where dancers dressed as the naughtiest of schoolgirls writhed between the lockers, then to a classroom where they arched and danced on desks. Their motions reached a climax as they were plunged into a parody of Hell itself – a nightclub decorated with magma – and costumes melted away to the skimpiest of outfits: Crosses that barely hid their bodies, with a black spaded tail covering between their legs. The damned damsels were hotter than the lava that crawled the stage, and were only complimented by touches of humor – like the poster that at the best bar in Hell, the night’s opening act is always Nickelback!
Act Three: Scarlot with Kismet Coy, Divalin Magic and Exhi – Something in Red – Lorrie Morgan
A fresh face in the Empire Room, Scarlot, led the audience through the phases of a love affair, as experienced by a succession of solitary dancers. Starting with a young woman in a room ripe red with passion, dancing under a string of shining lights, the setting’s focused changed with the stanzas of the song. Soon, the red room faded, giving way to another chapter and another dancer, in a room green with jealousy’s possessive luster and lit by the strung lights shaped into a star made for wishing on. The next phase gleamed pure white with wishes fulfilled, with dancer now wearing a bridal veil and the shiny lights strung in a single line by the window once more. Then came the fourth phase – a blue room showing a baby’s crib and the spangled string of lights separated into two columns. Using subtle imagery and a simple song, Scarlot composed a sophisticated narrative of the changes a woman goes through in a relationship, and certainly moved many hearts in the audience.
Act Four: Luna with Duch McCullen and CowGrl – Jellicle Cats – Andrew Lloyd Webber
Luna brought the strident chorus of one of Webber’s finest musicals to the stage, by setting up a spot-on performance of Cats. The musical that declared to worldwide audiences that our experience of life’s changes – loss, grief, triumph, struggle and love – were not exclusive to humans was gorgeously replicated by Luna’s careful craft. The stage of the majestic Empire Room became a sordid alleyway, strewn with trash, and the dancers in full Cats kit cavorted among cement pipes and shifting steam. It was surely a crowdpleaser that had many singing along in their seats.
Act Five: Jo with Ray Lobo, Melvis Baum, Tray Porthos, Sebastain Bourne and Zach Starostin – Footloose Doll – Brian Setzer
With amazing custom sets and flawless coordination, Jo‘s dance routine took us back to the era where public dance transformed from starchy formality to a footloose expression of romance – the dawn of the 20th century. Set in an aquamarine night club, Jo danced in a vintage cocktail dress, drawing suit-clad men from where they lounged around the bar to cut a rug with her. After Sebastain swung her through the air, Tray, Ray and Melvis swooped in to join them in kicking up their heels in the kind of kinetic way that cracked public morals and set the stage for sexual revolution.
Act Six: Wiz Nirvana – Every Step You Take (Minor Key) – Chase Holfelder
Always one to command the audience’s vision of what dance can do, the Wiz plunged The Empire Room crowd into the bowels of a dank cavern, where a lone dancer in a loin cloth swung flames in a rhythm that was both sensuous and menacing. Set to an eerie rendition of The Police’s already unsettling ‘Every Step You Take’, the routine used the vast, hard, cold setting to frame the dancer in colossal solitude. It was a stark spectacle of how tender feelings can sometimes travel to a very dark place of the human heart!
Act Seven: Lily with Ame, JP, Sebastain and Zach – Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds
John Hughes’ unforgettable coming of age story, The Breakfast Club, was our next installation about transformation – Lily‘s picture perfect imitation of the famous film’s library and its distinctively dressed cast! As the audience cried out their delight at the 80s epic being brought to life so accurately, Lily had the five archetypes from Hughes’ film dance together in the library that symbolized their detention and ultimate liberation. It was a thrilling ode to a timeless tale of teenage transformation into young adulthood.
Act Eight: Denyali with Asali, Breezie, Nae Nae – Lady Marmalade (Remix) – Unleashed
Denyali brought us to one of the most transformative areas of Paris – the Montmarte – in an homage to the musical that was all about putting its own twist on cabaret’s history, Moulin Rogue! In a set that honored the seductive glamour of Baz Luhrmann’s movie about the infamous “Red Windmill” bar, cabaret and brothel, ladies of ill repute strode and swayed on the stage. As the song – a remixed version of Lady Marmalade made a hit by the movie – reached for its powerful finale, the dancers shed their fur coats for lingerie, chandeliers rose and sparkles fell upon the stage. It was a dead-on representation of the kind of fantasy that Luhrmann brought to the screen – and the nostalgic embellishment that our own fantasies can bring to cultural history!
Act Nine: Babypea with Gunner, Nevar, Sebastain, Wiz, Zach – A Perfect Lie – The Engine Room
From captivity to command, from the sterile to the sexual, from ghastly to gorgeous – Babypea‘s act summoned a spectrum of transformation in the way only science fiction can! Beginning with a wretched, deformed figure caught in a capsule between cold machinery and ghoulish geometric walls, the motion of the dance churned in time with the weird music. Finally, the figure arose from the chamber, dressed in the scant silks and striking headdress of an erotic empress, and chilly machinery was replaced by men trapped in tanks below the modern sci-fi symbol of rape – the xenomorph egg-layers from Aliens. Babypea’s extraterrestrial empress exulted in her lush sexuality and spoke a solitary line to her male captives – that she had some facehuggers for them – before the music climaxed, the curtain fell, and the audience gasped.
Act Ten : Crowd Dance by Goddess Shayna – Day Tripper (Beatles), Explore (Katy Perry Parody), Sail Away (Enya)
Shayna set the stage for the crowd’s voyage together to a new world – a closing act devoted to the classic symbol of a grand journey: A sailing vessel from the age of discovery! The audience joined the crew on deck, and as dancers frolicked atop the masts, everyone celebrated exploration together in a series of songs that ranged from the romantic to the satirical.
With spangle and sexuality, parody and pluck, artistry and awesome animation, the Elysium Cabaret turned transformation into a gala event! Kicking off the month associated the Wheel of Fortune, this festival of the inspiring power of change honored one thing that holds sure in this shifting world: When you’re among the Elysium family, there’s always a great adventure ahead!
Gifs and pics courtesy of Jorgio.