In a narrow, hot, crowded hallway overlooking the stage of the Can Can Cabaret, I’m chatting with my friend when a tiny, black-clad girl with orange and blue eyelids, hot pink lips, and multi-colored hair – shaved on one side, long on the other – squeezes by. “That’s Rainbow,” I tell Tomoyo, and I can’t help but stare, fascinated, as she presses to the dressing room. Rainbow is the choreographer of Can Can, a dance troupe I discovered at Bumbershoot, and she is both a mesmerizing dancer and an ingenious choreographer. Her visions of movement, music, and physical expression range from sensual, to bawdy, to comedic, to downright creepy. As I watch her maneuver through the crowd, I feel her rich imagination and lithe body preparing to explode for the entertainment of the crowd.
But in their intimate, subterranean cabaret, Can Can gives more than just spectacle – they open my mind to the power of bodily communication, and they reveal the rewards of taking a risk by cracking open one’s imagination to expose it to the world. Can Can is cabaret, but what’s really on display is the awesome fertility of Rainbow’s psyche. Through her dance she reveals her own mind – an act of authenticity and vulnerability that characterizes the best artists – and that openness is what makes the show so memorable and inspiring. CCC don’t perform typical cabaret or burlesque routines (well okay, there’s a bit of this ‘n that). Instead they infuse their acts with modern dance, classical ballet, martial arts, world dance, and film allusions, producing an eclectic show that takes the audience into the dance world much more deeply than just a cabaret performance. And it’s all so intimate that my attention focuses even more on those tiny details I wouldn’t notice in a large auditorium - people crushed against me in the hallway, being so close to the dancers that I see the sweat glisten on their bodies, overhearing quiet comments, smelling food as the waiters walk by, feeling the ache in my feet from standing so long in boots.
The music is just as eclectic as the dance styles, and Rainbow really knows how to find the perfect song to fit the movement and tone of each act. Sometimes I ululate to a Journey song right along with the audience, and other times I frantically try to remember lyrics in order to Google them later to find some obscure song. How does Rainbow do all this? She’s like a PhD Renaissance woman of dance, dressed in a sequined red bodysuit.
Some viewers don’t like the weird stuff – during the act where the dancers were wearing white space suits and plastic masks and moving around in strange contortions, one girl commented to me, “this creeps me out”. I was also kinda creeped out, but I believe that was the whole point – to give the audience something unexpected, yet ultimately more revealing of the human mind. Don’t we all have places in our mind that are creepy, or scary, or bizarre? Can Can takes us there, and they do it night after night. I left feeling inspired – and also with the strong urge to find some green and blue eyeshadow and start going by “Mermaid”. J