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FIVE (The Drawing Center)

The Chimney NYC is pleased to host the screening of Rashaad Newsome’s FIVE (The Drawing Center). Staged at The Drawing Centre in 2014, this unique multimedia performance combines Vogue dance performances and computer technology that interprets the performers’ maneuvers into line drawings in real time.

Vogue or Voguing is a highly stylized, modern house dance that evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene in the 1980s. It gained mainstream exposure when it was co-opted by Madonna and featured in her song and video “Vogue” (1990), and when showcased in the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning.

Newsome’s project FIVE is inspired by two very specific styles of Vogue. New Way, which is characterized by rigid movements coupled with clicks and arms control. The second Vogue Femme, fluidity at its most extreme with exaggerated feminine movements influenced by ballet and modern dance. There are five elements of vogue femme: hand performance, catwalk, duck walk, floor performance and spins-dips. Newsome sought out vogue performers who were very proficient in one of each of the five elements. Using a software tracking the motion of color in real time, the performers’ gestures are transformed into drawings. The dancers act as Newsome’s pens, and echo the legacy of action painting and abstract expressionism.

Influenced by Merce Cunningham and John Cage’s chance performances, Newsome has created a rhythmic structure rooted in vogue drumbeat. He worked in parallel with 5 musicians that played instruments that mirrored what the dancers were doing visually, as well as the frenetic and improvisational nature of Vogue. To further engage the audience sonically and to play with notions of “high” and “low” art, Newsome worked with two vocalists, one opera singer and one Vogue commentator. A Vogue commentator like a typical commentator delivers a commentary of what’s happening, but does so in a way that is akin to the scat or a hip-hop MC. As the dancers perform the vocalist battle it out for their space within the composition.

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