A screen is stretch on the diagonal upstage left, the 2 lower corners taut by 2 ballerinas in white tutus and pointe shoes. The mountain from Paramount Motion Picture Company is projected against it. Sally is carried out and attached to to a rope that hangs centerstage. She is wearing a kilt-like cape with an S. She is flung against the screen over and over and over. She pounds her fists and feet against it in the same rhythm with the same dynamic for what seems like 3 or 4 minutes- is this a proclamation or penitence?
The next scene is a circus-like flurry of dancers including Jim Dominick, Taylor Dreyling, Sarah Fifer, Penelope Freeh, Marisha Johnson, Anshul Paranjape, Kimberly Richardson, Sally Rousse, Dylan Skybrook, and Laurie van Weiren. They waltz with flexed feet and spiraling arms. I see a bullfighter, Michael Jackson Thriller choreography, and a humorous moment when the dancers hit their foreheads with the heels of their hands. Who are they? What are their roles?
“Paramount to my footage” covers a history of the life of Sally Rousse. I see that Alek Keshishian, most known for Madonna’s Truth or Dare, was a creative consultant. Will Sally be just as sexy yet emotionally disconnected as Madonna in revealing what lies behind the public image of an iconic figure?
A lot of territory was covered in 45 minutes. Some poignant moments for me were seeing a projection of Sally’s father’s eye against the diagonal screen as if he were watching the performance from atop a mountain, Kimberly Richardson’s solo as Goddess of the Wind, a duet between Penelope Freeh and Sally in which they tap dance in their pointe shoes, LVW as an MC asking cliche celebrity questions, and when Sally finally mourned a loss- that of her first husband- and cried into a harmonica. I wonder what it would be like to explore just one of the many facets of Sally’s life more in-depth for a production? Say focusing on just the story of her first husband? Or the birth of her first child? or just her childhood? It’s challenging to face a time constraint of a shared evening.
An autobiography can be empowering because one can acknowledge that oneself has been through a lot to get where they are today. It can be triumphant and a testament to one’s survival through the good and bad. An autobiography can also be quite vulnerable. I wonder if I hadn’t read the closing statement that shares the details of the creator’s life prior to the performance. If I hadn’t, how might the experience been different? How can an artist transcend from personal to universal so that a viewer has a connection to the work? Let’s talk.