Beneath it All

It started in the funniest of ways. I was doing research to see how much spam was posted on Craigslist. I’d decided to produce a series of dance concerts, a series that would eventually become ‘The Moving Beauty Series’, and I thought, ‘Before I post a call for submissions, let me see how other people operate.’ So I perused a couple of ads, most of which were preposterous and insane and then I came across one that was so strange and brilliant that I thought I would submit to it just for the heck of it. It was a posting calling for a dancer who was willing to pose in different locations while wearing a suit made of 169 plastic masks. Insane, right? Well, I got a response. I turned it down because the photographer requested that in the final moment, the dancer would remove the masks one by one to reveal themselves nude. I don’t do nude and I let the photographer know. She said: ‘No problem. Can we meet?’ So we met and I was swept away. Over the course of 2 months we took over 70,000 photographs all over New York City while I wore the suit of masks. The original concept was- the story of a man who is judged by people, but we discovered that people were not judgmental of me while I was in public- they were quite pleasant and polite. So the concept became- the story of a man who chooses to live within a suit of masks and of what unfurls when he tries to remove those masks- to live outside his suit of armour. The photographer, Yvonne Ng, was originally going to loop the photographs into a short film and submit it to a number of festivals. About a month after we finished, I asked her if she wouldn’t mind premiering the project as a multimedia project with me dancing and actually removing the masks in front of a live audience with live music. At first she said, ‘I don’t know if there is enough time.’ The next day she called me and said, ‘Lets do it.’ She assembled the team. The pianist (and Yvonne’s neighbour), Meiko Mitsuda would play a commissioned score from Meiko’s colleague, the composer/pianist Yasuhiko Fukuoka, live. The results were amazing. I rented a black box theatre
and we converted it into a gallery which showed the prints from the photoshoot as well as a mannequin in a suit of masks. Then we took a roll of photo shoot paper, draped it over beams and hung curtains next to it to create a screen. Then we covered the screen. The audience entered and I came out and performed. After I finished, I ripped the cover off of the screen and we played the video. It was wonderful. All in all, we had three showings of what we all came to call, ‘Beneath it All’. The Premiere, an encore presentation a few months later, and a full length showing at Site Fest. This was my first experience in developing and producing and… I fell in love. Really, it was working with Yvonne Ng that did it for me. We came to realize that so much of what we wanted to do was impossible until we created the science to make it happen. Proof positive that nothing is ever truly impossible if you want to do it. Below you can view four of the final photos that were a part of  the exhibit and film as well as three videos which reveal footage of putting together the second showing, footage from the first showing, and finally footage from the showing at Site Fest. This concept was all Yvonne Ng. Though we all share the final product equally, without her grand vision and willingness to take a chance on my crazy expanded idea, I think it is fair to say that The Moving Beauty Series would not really exist- or at least it would not exist in the wonderful form that it does today. Following the videos, you can peruse the wonderful photo gallery of images that come from putting it all together. The photo shoot on site, photos from the performance, and then photos of us creators celebrating our after party in style and with great spirit.