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Performance Diary – Perilous Togetherness – Young Boy Dancing Group


Last evening, amidst the predictable chaos of New York’s subway disarray—trains erratically switching tracks, locals inexplicably turning express, and lines shutting down completely—I rendezvoused with my friend T outside the Public Theatre. T, ever the rock goddess even in daywear, stood as a stark contrast to the confused weather enveloping us. A fog had settled over the city, a sporadic drizzle shifting between a mild chill and bathwater steam. Our plan for the night was to finally see Young Boy Dancing Group, a performance group I have been following for many years but had never experienced in person.

Young Boy Dancing Group (@ybdg_4), a misnomer that subverts expectations, is an entity that eludes straightforward categorization. Neither composed of young boys nor adhering to traditional dance forms, the collective employs grouping as a fundamental strategy in their work’s form and organization. Established in 2014, they have since traversed the globe, fostering transient communities of performers who assemble for fleeting yet intense collaborations. Each locale witnesses the birth of a unique ensemble, where new members are absorbed and integrated, crafting amorphous and spectacular performances. This method of relational dynamics within the artistic process makes each performance a unique exploration of newly formed interconnections.

With 30 minutes to spare, T and I quickened toward Performance Space New York, once known as PS122 (a bastion of avant-garde rebellion including several of the NEA four). In search of caffeine and a restroom—the former a trivial pursuit in this city, the latter an odyssey—we made a stop at infinitesimally small and cute @andopatisserie. This establishment, a fusion of French/Asian baked goods and coffee offered no bathroom. Still, it provided robust confections: T with a Sesame Cafe Latte and I with a Peanut Cafe Latte, each serving as a perfect, potent distillation in a cup. These brief indulgences readied us for the beginning of the night.

We arrived at the venue a few minutes before the start time to a crowd waiting to check in and queuing for the elevator. We both popped into the all-gender restroom and onto the elevator, joining two performers already in action. As we watched the entanglement on the ground, our elevator cohort realized we had forgotten to hit the button for the 4th floor. Once out, more performers were in the bar, and another was being wheeled out on their hands and feet like a human bar cart. We followed the bar cart to the space as it opened out into a large black box with a white neon floating rectangle, ropes and pullies, a harp and digital sound situation on a small platform, and what can only be described as a post-internet slip and slime area. The crowd lining the walls and encircling chairs was vibrating with anticipation, and many were meeting friends and collaborators. The audience was serving looks. The aesthetic was face-tuned and 3d rendered. Think Balenciaga Chat-GPT. I spotted artists @crackheadbarneynfriends, @courtneymackedanz , nileharris, zhoukennie, jaceogram, #peeweenyob, @dreaminslow,@ johnhoobyar, @performanceart_nyc, @miles.greenberg, redorangeblossom, and lyr0u to name a few in attendance.

The harpist began with a lyrical procession on their digitally wired harp. A dance train of performers entered sharing their centers, leaning forward and bending backward, losing balance, veering off into the audience spaces, tripping, holding, and depending on each other. The performers wore black and white pieces of clothing that had been ripped, torn, cut, ungendered, and retrofitted as if they were just off the Raft of Médusa. Finger condoms were donned and multiple performers were penetrated as they crawled and moved together. It wasn’t sexual but rather another strategy for deep connectivity, trust, and intimacy. The group banded and disbanded into stumbling, falling, transforming tableaus of precarious multi-tiered group and duet lifts. In the final section, the performers built new compositions on the slip-and-slide area covered in slime dripping from punctured purses hanging above them. As they created different fleshy monuments of shared weight and balance, other company members moved them with metal poles and ropes, pushing and pulling them back and forth on the slimy runway. As the performance concluded, a communal offering of soup was extended to the audience, inviting everyone into the ephemeral community created by the performance.

The evening with Young Boy Dancing Group was an immersive tapestry of human connection. They dismantled barriers through their use of space and audience interaction, inviting us to reconsider the essence of intimacy and support in the violent present. Their performance, characterized by a raw and flailing visceral exploration of collective physicality, offered more than just visual spectacle—it invoked the transient nature of human relationships in all its fumbling, undefinable, uncomfortable, fleshy intimacy.

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