Entertainment in the dark

Pitch Dark Cabaret will provide audiences with a multisensory-inspired performance.

Syniva Whitney and Will Courtney embrace during rehearsal on Wednesday for their new project, which will be featured at the Pitch Dark Cabaret at Patrick's Cabaret. Their project, Gender Tender, is an interdisciplinary performance  that prioritizes the transgender and genderqueer experience in process and presentation.

Sam Harper

Syniva Whitney and Will Courtney embrace during rehearsal on Wednesday for their new project, which will be featured at the Pitch Dark Cabaret at Patrick's Cabaret. Their project, Gender Tender, is an interdisciplinary performance that prioritizes the transgender and genderqueer experience in process and presentation.

Brenda Tran

For most people, it’s difficult to imagine enjoying a dance performance without being able to see it. But this weekend, Patrick’s Cabaret finds a way to make it happen.
 
On Friday and Saturday night, the local nonprofit arts organization presents the Pitch Dark Cabaret. Performing artists share a variety of works including song, dance and poetry. But there’s a catch — they must do it in total darkness. Included in the lineup are Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre, Kari 
 
Tauring with Lynette Reini-Grandell, Gender Tender, Eric Larson, Chris Lear and Evan Boyce. 
 
The experimental event pushes artists to rely on elements such as sound, language, time and space to communicate their ideas. Audience members, on the other hand, must embrace the vulnerability that darkness brings in order to fully experience the show. 
 
Pitch Dark Cabaret is the brainchild of Scott Artley, performing arts curator at Patrick’s Cabaret. Inspiration for the event stemmed from Artley’s work with artists with disabilities. 
 
“Working with artists with disabilities a lot, I often think of what a performance would be like with one of the senses partially or completely gone,” Artley said. 
 
Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre and Gender Tender, two dance and visual arts groups, are in an especially tricky spot. Because dance is largely reliant on vision, both groups must find a way around impressing the crowd with fancy footwork and body language. 
 
“For sure, it was a challenge. It’s difficult just trying to play guitar in the dark, to dance, to do footwork, keep rhythms together without seeing each other, getting cues from each other and exercising our ears. It’s what we do, but just being in the dark will force us to do it more and better,” Amanda Dlouhy, lead dancer for the Zorongo Flamenco performance, said. 
 
Zorongo Flamenco’s main strategy involves stripping the performance down to the music by utilizing rhythmic footwork, handclaps, vocalizations and instrumentals.
 
Gender Tender has a more nuanced focus. They aim to create an emotionally charged atmosphere. Syniva Whitney, choreographer and performer in Gender Tender, noted that everything from footsteps to the sound of breathing was considered for their piece. 
 
“I feel like what really strikes people and what they remember is the emotional impact and energetic feeling they get from live performance,” Whitney said. “I think as we’ve been working on our piece we’ve found that it’s really striking how little things become important. … We really focused on what there is about movement that people can read in the dark.”
 
Pitch Dark Cabaret is as much an adventure for the audience as it is for the artists. Artley compares the show to an emotional rollercoaster, with a variety of experiences and perspectives for the crowd to indulge in. Although the show is completely safe, a level of adventurousness is necessary.
 
“We’re doing everything to make it as safe as possible. Nothing is going to be invasive for audience members; there’s no physical danger,” Artley said.
 
Patrick’s Cabaret aims to push artists with events like Pitch Dark Cabaret. The venue is available for artists of all experience levels to display their work. 
 
“Our focus is always on the artist being first in the process. Everything we do is all about making sure the artists have a great experience. … I want artists to have stretched their skills a little by having to do something so unconventional,” Artley said.
 
Pitch Dark Cabaret
 
Where Patrick’s Cabaret, 3010 S. Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis
When 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Cost $8-10