No Safe Word: kinky nude dance performance art f*cking awesomeness

Image by Shane Velazquez, makeup by MissCherry Delight

Image by Shane Velazquez, makeup by MissCherry Delight

I feel very, very hip when I tell you that on Friday night (February 6th), at Dixon Place (“NYC’s Laboratory for Performance,” which is lovely) I attended the “soft” premiere (please, yes, bring on the double entendres) of “No Safe Word,” the newest, not-quite-finished, totally not-safe-for-work contemporary dance performance work by Arrie Davidsion/Faux Pas le Fae of Kinetic Architecture.

I was delighted to get the invite, as I am a very publicly adoring fan of the “transgender performance artist and feminist faerie,” whose work I’ve breathlessly taken in before. (Note: that article about “Diaghilesque” was flagged by the Internet Powers That Be and denied advertising because there was lots of nudity in the photos. So we had to take the photos down. Which is dumb. NUDITY IS FANTASTIC, PEOPLE.) The dancer and founder of Kinetic Architecture has a choreographic style that is at once free and explosive, and a presentation that leaves the word “edgy” feeling distinctly milquetoast. Nudity, kink play, and transgression don’t quite cover it, either. “No Safe Word,” unfinished as it was, left me in no doubt as to the astonishingly unexplored possibilities in bringing together kink, dance, and true stories of sex work.

Oh, yes, when Arrie says “safe word,” she means kinky sex work. She has worked as a professional dominatrix as well as a professional dancer and choreographer, and she is striving to bring these two worlds together on the stage, through movement. And, though the “fine art” world of contemporary dance and the “seedy” world of dungeons might seem miles apart to the casual observer, it turns out that there are many commonalities: namely the seeking of connection through the body. The search for understanding through the physical, by way of self-expression. Think about it: there are few, if any, experiences in which we show our truest, deepest selves, aside from our sexual experiences. And particularly for those whose tastes and needs fall outside the mainstream, who turn to professionals to get what they need sexually, sexuality and kink can be an explosive release of all that is hidden–self-expression at its most intimate. On the stage, the movement of dancers expresses the inner workings of dancer and choreographer alike. Both dancer and dominatrix minister to us, the public, as conduits in our search for meaning.

Arrie Davidson, the choreographer of “No Safe Word,” has worked in a dungeon, as a dancer, and as a choreographer. She knows all of this, and she’s teaching us. In her description of the show on Facebook, she wrote, “‘No Safe Word’ is a true story based on fantasies. As a professional kink sex worker I have encountered all manner of people and range of fetish taste. The commonality is a desire to be known and understood. This work beckons the viewer to remove filters and visit fantasy without judgement. Erotic and raw vignettes open to a world in which dance is the vehicle for a struggle with primordial intuition and divine longing.”

Yes. All of that. The more I think about it, the more I wonder, if performance art isn‘t trying to explain ourselves to us through sex–one of the most universal experiences of the human body through which we experience ourselves–what is it doing? The stories told in “No Safe Word” aren’t just strange or entertaining anecdotes, they are representations of real people’s search for acceptance. They are, in that way, universal, even when they involve pig masks and diaper-like underpants. No matter how strange they may seem to us on the outside, we all know from whence they come: our deepest, most vulnerable beating hearts.

As the show progressed through scenes exploring sensory deprivation, food play, the trans experience, masks, vulnerability, and acceptance, I found myself crushing my hands together in suppressed glee that this was happening. Sometimes I realized I was hugging myself tightly, protectively. At other moments I couldn’t help but nod in agreement with what I was seeing. This show needs to happen.

I can’t wait to see it finished, along with every single person I can bring with me. (Oh, and I’ve heard there may be a “spanking symphony” in the works, which obviously needs to happen immediately.)

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