Review: Macho Dancer at Abrons

Eisa Jocson in Macho Dancer

A girl, a Filipino girl, is prancing around stage. Well, gyrating really, more like an exotic dancer might, and posing – like a gladiator or Ninja warrior might. Battle ready, muscles flexed, fingers pointed like guns.

Eisa Jocson in Macho Dancer
Eisa Jocson in Macho Dancer

Except this warrior is not wearing any cloak of armor to protect her. In fact, she is naked from the waist up. Only her long black hair to protect her bare breasts–which she uses as her only prop swinging it around with every move. Other times merely swinging her hips in a sensual circle of movements.

Is this provocative? I don’t know.  But that doesn’t seem to matter. Our dancer is trance-like; dancing for her audience. The strange thing is that she is ‘packing’. And I don’t mean groceries. Her very large bulge is showing through her very tight brown leather panties. She moves with ease in her black pointy cowboy boots. This girl is not from New York anyway (I would rather expect combat boots). She is from some far off exotic place or anyplace where girls like her make lonely men (or women) happy.

This is the story of Macho Dancer—choreographer Eisa Jocson’s take on this seemingly Philippine dance invention– as part of the Queer New York International Arts Festival 2013 at Abrons Arts Center.  Macho Dancing is rooted in the underground gay club scene world of the urban Philippines. Men are macho; women are slinky pole dancers. Jocson is both, as she mixes it up for us–body and all–taking the audience through the language of the “dancing body in the service industry,” and asking us to think and look twice. Looking can be as erotic as touching.

I can’t get these images of out of my mind. It has been a week since I saw the show (the Festival closed on Sunday).  At one point, Jocson left the stage, which was a platform surrounded by the audience on three sides like one might see in a strip joint, and approached the audience, stopping every so often in front of one, bending backwards as if to say, “take me; here I am.”  It was both exciting and frightening.  We nervously waited to see what the dancer was going to do. Her strong arms like a fighter; the audience squirmed. The lights were aimed on us. Who was on stage now?

The piece opened with Total Eclipse of the Heart – a song I love to hate. I am not fond of manipulative music telling me how to feel. Seemed a bit tacky.  The silent parts of Jocson’s dance were the most compelling, just to see and hear her sweat. Her pain and anguish showing through her half-naked being. On the night I saw the piece, it was Halloween. With a mostly masked audience, instead of the usual wide eyed blank stares one might expect, it must have felt especially isolating for our dancer. By the end though, when she slowly disappeared into a cloud of fog to George Michael’s Careless Whisper “….never gonna dance again. Guilty feet have got no rhythm….” we were completely with her.