CONGRESS Volume V | Legalize Dance
“Bonjour motherfuckers!” Denna Thomsen cried out to the tightly-packed audience of Silver Lake’s The Sweat Spot, an unassuming spot on Sunset Boulevard that houses Congress Volume V. The beret-clad hostess, alongside co-host Zak Ryan Schlegel kicked off the dynamic show, produced by Maavven, was packed with eight distinct works by cross-genre performers and choreographers.
Now in its fifth run, Congress—a salon-style collective which allows artists to share their works in an intimate and supportive environment—had its first sold-out show on opening night, August 23rd. And it’s clear why. Each set brought both jaw-dropping technique and a fresh approach to dance that left the audience awe-struck.
The hosts of Congress asked each of their “Con Artists” if every performance deserves an applause. Slauson Rec, the first performance of the night, said no. The piece, “It’s Reflection”, began in a long silence, so still that you could hear only the whirring of the vents and the breath of the performers. The piece was arguably the most avant-garde of the night, featuring props like lighters and a taser. Slauson Rec broke the conception of dancers as silent, fluid bodies; the dancers were the ones to break the prolonged silence, beginning a cacophony of voices. They used their bodies as architecture and their costumes as props, ending the piece with their shirts stretched over their heads, allowing each dancer to vanish into anonymity.
Choreographer Kathryn Burns presented her trio “Diamonds” the day after winning her second Emmy. Technically impeccable, the piece featured an amalgamation of classical ballet technique and contemporary dance. As the sole ballet dancer joined the her two contemporary counterparts, she whipped off a wig to reveal her shaved head—representative of liberation from the rigid confines of the art form.
Since Congress has expanded, they have been able to accept submissions to the collective. Their inaugural submission, Sam McReynolds offered up a boundary-pushing, expressive performance backed by Thee Oh Sees.
Ending the first half was a spicy Argentine tango by Mayte Valdes and Carlos Barrionuevo. The gravity-defying duo drew audible gasps from the crowd with their impressive lifts and rapid-fire turns. "Does anyone have a tissue so I can wipe my vagina?” Thomsen asked the audience. “Seriously if you don’t wanna fuck after that, then get the fuck out.”
Following an intermission fueled by Madre Mezcal, Rebacah Goldstone took the stage in her duo “For the Hands”. Goldstone’s dynamic piece was infectiously fun, transitioning from a Latin-influenced sound to a funky bass-drop, inciting hollers from the audience. Though experimental, there was an undeniable technical base to Goldstone’s piece, making it a standout of the night.
The first hip-hop piece of the night came from Boy Boi, whose Migos-backed choreo brought smiles to the faces of the supportive crowd. Boy Boi’s piece, “Supastars,” was no typical routine though. Hip-hop—especially hard-hitting hip-hop—has a tendency to define strict gender roles, which Boy Boi was quick to demolish. The crew of three men and one woman supported the notion that there is nothing gendered about moving the body, and provided one of the most unexpectedly sensual performances of the night.
Jen Rose’s “A Surrender” was easily the most emotional of the night. Dancing with complete abandon, Rose bared her entire soul to the audience, throwing her body with such beautiful disregard. Rose played up the minimalism of her set, allowing the crowd to focus on the stunning movement of her body, leaving an intangible yearning hanging in the air once she walked offstage.
Finishing off the night strong was Tucker Barkley, whose eight-person crew enchanted the audience with their hard-hitting movements and fiery attitude. The choreography to music by Jesse Boykins III and A. Chal defied genres, leaving the crowd enthralled by their seamless movements.
“Dancers are the best fucking artists in the fucking world!” Thomsen yelled to raucous applause at the close of the show. And with this display of remarkable talent by the selection of “Con Artists”, she may very well be right.