An unlikely performance space resides in a gallery/dance studio on Bond Street. Bond Street Brooklyn that is; unassuming on a half-residential half-industrial street. If Austin McCormick’s work makes a splash, the hustle and bustle of Smith Street may have some healthy competition in livening up this dead zone.
The set design is gorgeously orchestrated in the Baroque style with matte silver tin ceiling tiles framing the outer edges and top of the stage, accented by a glittery black theatre curtain. A crystal chandelier hangs center stage, and a strategically placed boudoir mirror (used as an onstage dressing room) allows the audience to glimpse an aside of the character’s emotions behind the scenes (especially telling by Helen later on in the performance).
The drama is narrated by a ringmaster (Nick Fesette) egging the audience to patiently await the tale of love and lust. Waiting is not long, as four blonde dancers (including a voluptuous Mae West-type and a male with Tina Turner worthy legs) rowdily enter stage left donned in champagne colored corsets, matching cancan skirts with petticoats and ruffles in crimson red. Spouting lewd comments in French, together their high kicks expose bosom, bottoms and legs, like a naughty set of Rockettes.
The Judgment of Paris is one part burlesque/one part spoken word/one part dance – McCormick’s original script inspired by opera, theater, and history/mythology. Creative liberties are taken with the story regarding the relationship between Helen and Paris, construed as a love story (rather than an abduction), narrated by a courtesan (Gioia Marchese).
As the story goes, Paris is ordered by Zeus to choose which of the three goddesses–Athena, Hera or Aphrodite–to bestow the Golden Apple. Each of the goddesses dance for Paris with offerings of: wealth (a golden infused Hera performs ballet on point), bravery & strength (a tutu’d Athena dancing to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy) and love (Aphrodite performing a clothed fan dance). An unsuspecting young man really? Given the choices, which would one would you choose?
Aphrodite, the Golden Apple in her possession, promises Paris love and lust with Helen of Troy. One of the most poetic scenes involves Paris and Helen sealing their fate with an erotic love dance. The female lead wears sheer mauve georgette that is almost ethereal–a play on the good/bad angel theme that seems to haunt Helen throughout her rise and fall.
A most powerful dance sequence portrays the battle led by Helen’s husband, King Menelaus of Sparta…here Fesette proves his true talent as dramatic artist. Spellbound by the force of his voice, I was captivated by the slow motion effects of the troupe preparing and engrossed in battle. Dressed in sparkling chain mail, the dancers movements are magnified by the enveloping mist. A mystical scene, contemporary in its depiction of war.
The Judgment of Paris, presented by Company XIV is part of The Apple Trilogy. The studio is located in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn accessible by the F or G train to Carroll Street and a short walk from Smith Street. Cross streets of Bond and Union Street.