Impressions from ASSEMBLY

Fierce and Fabulous

If I was allowed just two words to describe the fantastic performance of Rashaad Newsome’s “Assembly” I enjoyed last night at the Park Avenue Armory, those would be the two.

Given more words to describe the experience, I could wax mightily effusively, but for expediency sake I might just quote: “the evening performance is its own collage of music (band and gospel choir), dance, poetry, and dazzling graphics. It’s more concert spectacle than cohesive theatrical event, but the various components—spoken word (a passionately delivered rant against straight men by Dazié Rustin Grego-Sykes), opera (gorgeously sung by Brittany Logan in a fabulous gold Elizabethan collar), or the fantastic vogue dancing—each contains its own sense of drama and character.

The choreography—by Kameron Saunders, Ousmane Omari Wiles, and Maleek Washington—delivers all the spiraling hand gestures and exciting floor dips that give voguing its strut and structure. But it also offers enlightening variations on the form by slowing it down into a kind of vogue adagio that infuses it with existential longing and a rare melancholy.

(The dancers) make the politics of vogue viscerally felt. When layered and put into conversation with the stellar singers and musicians, Assembly accomplishes Newsome’s aim of honoring Black struggle, ingenuity, and beauty, becoming a living tapestry as rich and magnificent as his bejeweled backdrop.”

Those quotes are from Brian Schaefer’s review in Bloomberg.com, which I recommend you read in full. Assembly, as you may have gleaned already, is not “only” a (brilliant) evening of dance, vogue, music and rap celebrating black trans artistry and community. It also comprises an exhibit and installation and workshops.

These photos are not from the performance (you can see images of that in the Bloomberg article I linked to), but of the exhibit and performance space in the huge Drill Hall in the Park Avenue Armory, which I recommend you experience by arriving 30 – 50 minutes before the performance starts.

Consider these photographs a little visual taste of the full effect (music and spoken text and movement) of the exhibit, and a preamble to the climactic performance itself. Then get thee to the Armory by March 6.

In the Main Cabin/Cargo Bay: “Wrapped, Tied & Tangled” from the Rashaad Newsom Studio.

Moving into the “Command Deck”, the performance space.

The area in back of the performance space is called “Get Your Life Pods”.

About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 30 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
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