"Leaving the safety of Dallas allowed us both to really go for it," says artist and dancer Danielle Georgiou. She's referring to Pizzicato Porno, a mutlitsensory piece that she and her boyfriend, Ochre House's Justin Locklear, recently assembled and presented at the Rogue Performance Festival in Fresno. Dallas gets one chance to see it -- on Sunday at RO2 Downtown.
It's a bear-all emotional purging: a woven mass of video footage, weather balloons, dance, light nudity, improvised music and a climaxing rubber chicken. Early on the show narrates the painful isolation of togetherness and the struggle to prove one's value to another. Then it seals off the coupling contamination hatch, a required act preluding love's divide.
The plotline isn't linear or expressly direct. Instead, it shows the pair bumping through the romantic stages. They make music together by hitting their own bodies and plucking a violin. They dance to their own soundtrack. And eventually they attempt to project affection where it no longer exists. It's a loosely knit construction of love's failures, told through a fragmented, sensory bombardment. Imagine Blue Valentine, but with avant garde dance and video art launched onto weather balloons.
By premiering the work in California, Locklear and Georgiou were free to fall into their roles more deeply. "We realized that we didn't know those people," she says, thinking back to the room of strangers that witnessed their private experiment. "We had nothing to live up to and nobody to impress."
And so, they tore into the 45-minute performance. Georgiou would later refer to the emotional exorcism as "exhausting."
Comment threads on the festival's website lit up and filled with exclamation points. Audience members shouted at the internet, urging all to buy tickets for Porno's limited performances. It seems Fresno, California's never heard a rubber chicken find its G-spot before.
It's interesting that Porno has gotten this far, especially considering Locklear and Georgiou's dynamic: a passionate couple, still in the Year One Stage of romance. And here they work together, hoping to amplify the most penetratingly hurtful parts of a break-up. Doing that meant drawing from past experiences, then writing their moments of greatest pain into one another's storylines. For Danielle and Locklear, converting those feelings into a performative piece meant keeping transference at bay.
"We had to continuously remind each other that we're making a piece of art," says Georgiou. "And it's complicated, because we really wanted to tell this story, but we both knew we had to separate ourselves from it."
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Geography lent a hand. In Fresno they could dance violently, scream loudly -- think vacation sex versus the everyday act, where nosy neighbors are aided by tell-all apartment walls. But perhaps more importantly, they were able to discover how far they could take the work and still connect with the audience. "We had great reception after every performance, recalls Georgiou. "It's very personal work and we didn't know how relatable it would be, but after each show they'd be waiting in the lobby, waiting to tell us about it."
The couple become sounding boards for their viewers' experiences. "They'd say, 'I've been in that place,' or 'I've felt that before.' which was powerful," says Georgiou.
I ask Danielle how "Porno" plays into the work, mentioning that some comments discuss the show as unsuitable for younger audiences. She assures that it's meant as a metaphorical description. That they see porn as a barrage: a cocaphony of images and sensory triggers that finally results in nothing. Or at least nothing worth clinging to.
See Pizzicato Porno at 7 p.m. Sunday, for free, at RO2 Downtown Projects.