“OK, I think Fun is my F word. I think it can be a big no-no in the avant-garde world,” choreographer Faye Driscoll told us last week in our twi-ny talk with the new Guggenheim Fellow. “And isn’t really good fun also a little bit dangerous?” The creator of such innovative works as You’re Me, 837 Venice Boulevard, and There is so much mad in me reaches new heights (literally) with her latest evening-length piece, Thank You for Coming: Attendance. The title is no mere cliché; Driscoll really means it, since the audience is intrinsically part of the show as she transforms Danspace’s room in St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery into a dazzling, participatory happening in which you never know what’s going to take place next. Upon entering the religious-like space, everyone must hang up their coat and take off their shoes, then choose a seat either on the floor or on benches surrounding an elevated center stage. After having walked around the room several times, the five dancers (Giulia Carotenuto, Sean Donovan, Alicia Ohs, Brandon Washington, and Nikki Zialcita) and Driscoll appear on the balcony, singing the rules of the show in harmony. The dancers then make their way to the stage, where their bodies meld into one, colliding, pushing, embracing, kicking, and supporting one another in breathtaking, seemingly impossible, and often humorous configurations, the only sound coming from their movement on the cloth atop the stage.
Once Driscoll slides underneath the stage, just about anything can and does happen as she deconstructs and reconstructs Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin’s visual design, Sarah Thea Swafford’s costumes come off and on, Michael Kiley’s acoustic music gets personal, and audience members can choose to become just about as involved as they want to be as the piece builds to its swirling finale. This first section of the Thank You for Coming trilogy, very appropriately titled “Attendance” (a word that of course includes “dance”), with “Play” and “Space” to follow, evokes the work of such giants as Anna Halprin and Pina Bausch as well as such contemporaries as Emily Johnson while still being completely Driscoll’s as she continues her exploration into the complex, ever-developing relationship between choreographer and dancer, performer and audience, consistently challenging expectations while defying classification. Although advance tickets are sold out, there’s a wait list at every show beginning at 7:15, with a few dozen additional lucky people likely to be able to get in each night to take part in this fun, certainly a little dangerous, and endlessly entertaining and surprising avant-garde happening.