Dig out your frosted blue eyeshadow and shop your closet for puff sleeves and ruffles because Frame Dance cordially invites you to My Beloved … meet me at the prom, an immersive, ‘80s-themed dance and music performance created from some very special primary sources: the old love letters of real Houstonians.
“I’ve been working with ideas of love and language for a couple of years,” says Frame Dance Executive and Artistic Director Lydia Hance, who also directs My Beloved. “I think I found letters that I had saved and was thinking about how words written in the past can still cause us to stir and have really physical remembrances of who we were at the time of receiving or writing a letter. I was really interested in how people articulate and describe their affection and their love and how that evolves and changes through the course of a relationship.”
Though couples today may be more likely to text than pen a love letter, Hance says that the conversations she had with her dancers showed that the feelings reflected in those letters – nervousness, infatuation, jealousy, resentment – are still quite familiar.
“The letters were definitely tools for seeing our universal experience,” says Hance. “I think falling in love feels so specific, and it feels so special, so it was really beautiful to see so many people experience their own version of that.”
Standing in fluorescent, taffeta-wrapped opposition to the raw, emotional text of My Beloved is its immersive ‘80s prom setting, brought to life by Ashley Horn. The set includes a “tunnel to the ‘80s,” a nostalgic installation that leads into MECA’s cafeteria-turned-prom-event-space (“It has this not-so-glamorous prom experience that I feel was more true in the ‘80s then now, now they’re in these fancy hotels,” says Hance), balloons, streamers, a cheesy photo backdrop and pounds – yes, pounds – of glitter under a canopy of lights and the sparkle of a disco ball.
“The reason I picked the ‘80s was because it feels very big and flashy, and there’s an artificial quality that I feel it has,” says Hance. “I wanted it to be very different than the really personal, vulnerable worlds. I wanted there to be a huge contrast.”
So, when people walk up MECA’s steps for My Beloved, they’ll walk straight into an ‘80s high school scene populated with performers playing some familiar high school characters – the six-time senior, the angry principal, the cheerleader, etc. – passing around notes with gossip that reveals more about them. She invites everyone to join in the festivities by dressing up for the occasion, drinking the punch and dancing like it’s their own prom, saying she tries “to create pieces where the audience can participate or not and feel just as comfortable. I never require an audience member to do something, but I try to make it as inviting and safe as possible.”
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Hance says that immersive works in non-traditional performance sites like My Beloved can be risky, but her dancers are used to not having the protection of a fourth wall. So, you should feel free to get down right alongside them as they break out some classic moves – Running Man, cabbage patch and sprinkler, to name a few – before the evening shifts, dissolving into more of a performance featuring very precise, almost neo-classical moves that will show off the expertise and skill of her dancers because, as Hance reminds, “I’m also creating a modern dance composition.”
She admits that My Beloved has a slightly more narrative structure than she’s used to, and it’s been challenging finding the right balance between narrative and abstract, but hopes that audiences will recognize the characters they’ve created and carry those ideas into the more abstract sections.
After all, even if you didn’t go to high in the ‘80s, you’ve probably seen a John Hughes movies.
My Beloved … meet me at the prom is scheduled for 8 p.m. April 7 at MECA, 1900 Kane. For more information, call 713-802-9370 or visit framedance.org. $25.