Featured Photo: Artist Nick Cave and Choreographer Luther Cox watch the dancers acquaint themselves with the armatures they will wear under Cave’s Soundsuits during AS IS.
Artist Nick Cave has been preparing the past eight months for AS IS, a one-performance-only show this Sunday, March 20, 2:30 at Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. Sunday’s spectacular consists of five different pieces: Blanket Statement, Up Right, Smear, Do Si Do Boom Boom, and a performance by Big Freedia, New Orleans’ premier Bounce Artist. Putting this performance together wasn’t easy—but given the glimpse I have had of the production, it will be easy on the eyes. Nick Cave Studio Special Projects Director Bob Faust believes that this family-friendly event can be enjoyed from a purely visual standpoint or can be the basis for a thought-provoking discussion of race, gender, and art. Your choice.
AS IS multi-layered take also resides in its use of different forms of expression. In a rehearsal for Piece 4, Do Si Do Boom Boom, local band favorite Twang Darkly has become the Twang Bang Orchestra with the addition of three percussionists. The band engages in a call and response between what Musician Michael Futreal calls the “hillbilly” and the “tribal” elements of the band. The piece concludes with both elements joining together for a cosmic square dance. An animated kaleidoscope featuring Cave’s Soundsuits by Bob Faust lights the dancer’s stage. Waves of animation advance and recede under the dancers as they move between square dance-like moves and more contemporary percussive moves.
During rehearsal, the dancers worked on their moves with choreographer Luther Cox before donning the armature that goes under the Soundsuits they will wear during the performance. A metal framework reminiscent of football padding fits over the dancer’s shoulders and extends their height by several feet. Over that framework, they wear a white shift with face netting—this is what they practiced in. Once they feel comfortable dancing in this undergarment, they will practice and then perform in Cave’s Big Hair and Raffia suits. Once all the layers are in place, the Soundsuits worn by the twelve Northwestern State University Dancers performing Do Si Do Boom Boom will weigh anywhere from 15–20 pounds.
Two types of Soundsuits will be present in Sunday’s performance. The Big Hair and Raffia Soundsuits are constructed to amplify dance movements. During Up Right, the second piece, artists who participated in Cave’s eight-month residency will transform ten Initiates into living sculptures. The Initiates hail from local non-profit organizations that participated in creating blankets for the first piece, Blanket Statement. These sculptural Soundsuits will “prepare the Initiates, mind, body, and spirit to face the forces that stand in the way of selfhood.” This section features Musicology International, a choir under the directorship of Sereca Robinson Henderson and animation by John Durbin. Smear, the third piece, promises to be a multi-media extravaganza as well.
The afternoon’s festivities will culminate with a performance by Big Freedia. Faust believes that Cave and Freedia deal with many of the same issues in their work. They just come at those issues from different angles. He hopes that the audience will not only feel that they have witnessed a first rate work of art, but that they will feel that they have participated in a transformative community event. I for one can’t wait!