“Bon soir, my name is Josephine,” said a smoky-eyed girl as I entered the hall at Danspace Saturday night to see the latest show joining the immersive theater cadre, French Amour directed by Brice Mousset.
“Can you help me with these buttons, beautiful?” said a sweaty young man.
As I fumbled with the buttons on his vest, I heard, “he is nothing but trouble.”
As a personal note, immersive theater gives me incredibly anxiety. I love performing but I like to know in advance what’s happening and what I’m supposed to do. That unknown combined with people I don’t know touching me, makes me a little crazy. Despite numerous invitations I have not been to see Sleep No More or Then She Fell even though I know members of both casts. How did I end up at “French Amour”? Invited by a friend I didn’t even look up the show; shortly before, she sent me the review to read. At that point I was committed, so I went and had a great time.
Mousset makes use of the entire area. He sends dancers up and down the risers, leaning into the windows, tumbling across the stage through the audience.
To start, it felt like entering a speakeasy and/or cabaret. Everyone a bit aloof, mysterious, sizing each other up. When grabbing a drink at the bar (which required stepping on to the dance floor) you might be engaged by a flirty individual to dance. The floor filled with people laughing, talking, dancing, and kissing. Suddenly, the lights shifted focus and we all rushed to circle the floor for the first “number.”
Mousset presented his dancers in vignettes as duets and trios, with a few group numbers throughout. Accompanied by jazzy soulful songs (hello Etta James), his dancers wrestle through love’s entanglements. It’s sex, lies, and…dance. The performers constantly shift the audience’ focus by pushing, pulling, and twisting. One episode winds into the next and suddenly you find you’ve moved all over taking it in. I bumped into friends throughout the evening, and we all seemed to have the same strange expression that mixed uncertainty with happiness.
Mousset’s dancers are young, ambitious, and a little gritty. They powered confidently through a performance that held them on the precipice of vulnerability. The production has room to grow and it will be incredible to take in this expanding style of performance theater.
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