Painted bodies, feathered heads and neon-tinged faces all melted together in an euphoric blur. The thumping, stomping and swaying of a collective dance transformed the circular altar space in a ritual to hedonism. For one night, the second floor of the 3rd Ward warehouse space in Bushwick, Brooklyn became an alien-tribal cove, a sensory experience built to enhance curiosity, movement, indulgence, expression and mingling in an endless celebration of sound and dance. Some unforgettable fruits of the night included new (and often magically unusual) acquaintances and an utter and blissful loss of inhibition, all in the spirit of cosmic changes foretold for 2012.
The event opened with an exotic fashion show, displaying one-part-Mayan, one-part-Yogi designs by XANGO. Models danced their bodies and stretched their limbs as they pulsated down the candle-lit runway, expanding my preexisting stylistic notions of what a fashion shows is. I watched, mesmerized, as a powerful woman in a skin-tight printed red column twirled her wrists and undulated her hips. Each ensuing model expressed themselves differently, obscuring the lines dividing fashion, dance and performance. The variety and wild self-expression stunned me, as I realized I had never questioned the robotic sameness of mainstream fashion shows today. The designers are artists, too, but business confines them in a box. The production led me to free-associate to Yves Saint Laurent’s retrospective runway show in 2008, which in my opinion holds more similarities to XANGO’s presentation than to the repetitive shows fashion designers are producing now. To name one, the models play up their unique facial expressions and individual gaits to the tune of miscellaneous music. Perhaps the elusive change to come in 2012 heralds a departure from the stifling simulations that dominate contemporary runways, to make way for creativity with abandon.
The fashion show dissolved into a bacchanalian dance performance, inflected with Native American notes, and energized by the sensual beat of foreign drums. Dancers shook bushels of herbs as they toe-heeled and leapt, sprightly, about the altar. The ecstatic energy impregnated the entire space, and soon enough the entire room was moving, too.
Photographs by Betina Bethlem