Meg Wolfe’s “New Faithful Disco” Dance is Mighty Real
The antlers are baffling. In Meg Wolfe’s “New Faithful Disco,” which she performs with fellow dancers taisha pagget and Marbles Jumbo Radio, disco’s pounding beat is both abstracted and distilled to score what Wolfe has described as “a queer-love power-trio.” Disco’s function as the soundtrack to unapologetic queerness is well documented, but it’s usually the male form (and usually white) that takes up so much space in that conversation. Wolfe doesn’t so much reimagine as reclaim the genre and its well-documented transformative/restorative properties for queer women. And it’s worth noting that the bodies in motion are black, brown, and white.
As the audience files into the Redcat Theater auditorium, three forms are onstage curled into fetal positions beneath massive quilts. It takes a minute to even realize the bodies are there. After the lights dim and the dancers start to oh so slowly crawl from beneath the covering, a purposely muddled audio track – it sounds like it’s being piped from underwater – pours from the speakers. Familiar disco grooves flicker in and out of audio focus, with snippets from queer icon Diana Ross’ “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?)” rising and falling in the mix. Throughout the performance, Wolfe and company never give the audience an obvious or even easily grasped narrative to latch onto, but kicking things off with passages from Ross’ existential query – “Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you?” – is a nod toward the search for self, community, and agency that disco culture once facilitated for so many queer people.
The trio alternate languid, measured moves – the slow folding and putting away of their respective quilts; rhythmic, unhurried walking across the stage, in angles criss-crossing one another’s paths – with frenetic, propulsive bursts of energy, from hypnotic spins (Radio in particular is magnetic) to seamless matching of frantic beats with machine-gun rapid fire arm and hand moves. Wolfe is sensual in a silk dress that sways and swings across her voluptuous form as she moves across the floor, while the androgynous-to-butch attire of paggett and Radio (who have several simmering erotic moments together) pointedly fills out the range of sartorial aesthetic expression that accompanies the dancers’ movements.
A segment in which the trio sports antlers and use the quilts as royal robes, with the quilts hanging from their shoulders and dragged in long trains behind them, is mesmerizing, and leads into the cathartic finale. The music prior to this has been several disco tracks jaggedly layered over one another, at times creating an almost industrial sludge before a familiar tune (such as Shalamar’s “Make That Move”) emerges clearly and holds for a bit before diving back under. The final segment, a rousing, momentum-building back and forth between the dancers as they fuse Isadora Duncan and Saturday Night Fever, is set to Gloria Gaynor’s dancefloor classic “Never Can Say Goodbye.” Fittingly, it’s an archetypal disco track wherein heartache or melancholy is set to a 4/4 beat and lush grooves, with the tension between the lyrics and the upbeat music bed creating a space for the dancer to fall into herself.
Performances run through Saturday, January 30 at Redcat, 631 W. Second St., downtown Los Angeles. Showtime is 8:30 PM.
All photos are by Steve Gunther