If you have heard of Sleep No More and have not gone yet, try Debut, a new evening-length dance and theatrical production created by Emily Terndrup (Sleep No More, Gallim Dance) and Derrick Belcham (La Blogotheque, A Story Told Well), both of whom are also known for the success of “The Wilder Papers.”
Debut premiered October 7th-9th at the Knockdown Center, a 60,000-square-foot loft in Queens, several blocks from the Jefferson L train stop. Entering the space, one might first question if he/she has the right address; the space seems abandoned and cloaked in darkness. But then glancing around, there are other people with the same expression of curiosity and confusion on their faces, so this shared confusion introduces a possibility that this might be the place.
Inside, there is a disco ball, some punch, and lots of people standing around talking. No words or information is displayed on the walls. Set up like a school dance, it sets the scene the teenagers in this production were escaping when they decided to break into that same building you once thought was abandoned. The time is the evening of the teenagers’ senior prom. Paper flowers are hung from the wall. Suddenly, a metal door comes down over the entrance, and the performance starts.
All attendees enter the main room, with fog machine smoke, and they find a seat among rows of chairs. Seven dancers enter, dressed up for their senior prom. They drink, roughhouse, play around, and generally seem to have a good time with one another. They are probably pretty happy they did not go to their actual prom. In that sense, it’s easy to detach oneself from a performance. Dancers drift from one room to the next, with the audience close behind. The plot does not seem to have much more than this, but it’s also easy to feel that way when you feel you were in one place too long.
The production, itself, interweaves theater and experimental music with dance. There are no words at all, and like Sleep No More, the audience has to remain vigilant in order to see where the characters go. Because there are fewer characters than those in Sleep No More, and because it all takes place on one floor, there are fewer choices to make. Lighting, music, costume, and set design evolve with the shifting perspectives of the characters. All elements of the production highlight the eerie beauty of the space.
Music for Debut was written and performed live by Julianna Barwick, Mauro Remiddi (Porcelain Raft), Ruby Kato Attwood and John Ancheta (Yamantaka // Sonic Titan), David Moore (Bing & Ruth), Jessie Stein (The Luyas), Hannah Epperson, and Reed Smidebush (Muuny). The performance features dancers Rebecca Margolick, TJ Spaur, Emma Judkins, Brendan Duggan, Matthew Ortner, Ross Katen, and Emily Terndrup.
Debut is a great production to see for one who has not explored this interactive theatrical experience before. It definitely is interesting, but it might make the Sleep No More lover crave another more intense theatrical experience again.