The Joyce, a neighborhood dance theater in Chelsea, Manhattan, reminds me of Dr Who's Tardis: a modest, low key, retro frontage that opens up into a giant internal world of global dance entertainment. It's not that the theater is huge - the tremendous variety of shows simply makes it seem that way.
In recent times they've started offering $10 seats, thereby putting world class dance within reach of a huge and recession-strapped audience. And if you've never been to a dance performance and experienced the psychological boost it gives you, you're in for a treat.
$10 buys you seats in the very front row, "the bleeding nose seats", where, unless you're tall or sneak a cushion inside, you will possibly see the show from the dancer's ankles up. But choreographers make sire a lot of action happens above the ankles, so for the amazing price, it's a no-brainer.
I might be the only person on the world that believes watching dance actually has a positive physical effect on your body - even though you're just sitting in a seat. Having spent an hour or more immersed in a display of the human body moving with levity and grace, you actually float up out of your seat and walk different. I remember watching mogul skiing championships on TV for hours, then experiencing a boost in confidence when I stepped onto skis (and I'm no skier). So you can consider the $10 like a visit to a dance-exercise class. Well, an adjunct at least.
I absolutely love the retro neon sign, which I sincerely hope they never, ever 'update'. It's even maintained its retro lettering for each show - I happened to stroll past when the sign guy was hanging the letters up for the next act:
Photo by Andrew Collins at this link
One area that could really do with a bit of revamping, is their downstairs bar area. It seems like a dead end, so people tend to congregate upstairs. My 72 year old mother enunciated the problem: "Teal, ugh, they need to repaint it and maybe put some mirrors on the back wall." I thought of initiating a Joyce community initiative to help refurb it - in fact, a stroll around the streets of Manhattan often reveals enough discarded designer object d'art to redo the dingiest dive ...
From my Galfromdownunder Uncut blog, May, 2009:
Last night we scored $19 frontish-row tickets to the most amazing, trippy, surreal, illusionist dance performance I've seen since Philippe Genty - MOMIX's 'Botanica' at the Joyce Theater. OK, I saw PG a looooong time ago. Perhaps this stuff is now par for the course...
"It's like Circ du Soleil before the latter went all commercial," said mum. Google MOMIX and you'll see it's commandeered by a truly Dali-esque character-choreographer, Moses Pendleton.
It opens with a stunning multimedia closeup of a rose that recedes slowly into deep space. Then this ghostly 30' (40?) tall plant costume wafts on stage, opening and closing like a giant jellyfish on a stalk. Three maidens in white virginal dresses rise from the billowing sheeted floor to frolic with its fuzzy tentacles.
Then there's an eye-popping blackout scene where only the bobbing and twisting lace-covered arms and shins of dances are illuminated in glowing green light, resembling caffeinated glowworms going troppo in a dark cave.
A gal did this amazing spinning thing with a hoop of floor-length beaded strands on her head. Mum dryly remarked "now if we tried that spinning beaded lampshade trick we'd end up with it wrapped around our necks."
Her favorite was the gal who did a conceptually simple but stunning piece where she writhed in a skincolored bodysuit on a tinted, tilted mirror surface - a 'hall of mirrors' idea pushed to the max.
A jaw dropper was this enormous, rubbery and anatomically-correct Triceratops skeleton ridden slo-mo-rodeo style by a semi-naked goddess, while in the background a bunch of rock-like creatures engulfed and cavorted with naked bodies. The museum of Natural History oughta get this act into their lobby to jazz up their dinosaur bones exhibit ... in short, A MUST SEE. Our cheapseats were quite acceptable, as some of the scenes best viewed from further back appeared on video simulcast on a giant screen at the back ...
Momix are coming back mid 2010. I'm so there!
175 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10011-1694