Destination: Experimental Station. Several years ago while residing in my Hyde Park apartment on 48th and Drexel, I struck upon the idea of purchasing a bike for some light travel through the neighborhood during the warmer months.
When evaluating places to obtain a ride, Blackstone Bicycle Works arose as the nearest available option. I had first learned of Blackstone while doing community resource mapping with City Year, but the unusual hours they kept prevented me from paying a visit to the shop. Upon finally deciding to drop in, I set out on the bus with the address transcribed in a notebook. After 5 cycles spent pacing the 2 blocks between 61st and 63rd Street, I surmised that this trip and my phone calls would prove fruitless for the day.
A balmy Sunday evening last November found me repeating the same curious process I had done so many years earlier. I never did find the Experimental Station after my first failed attempt. Were it not for another couple hustling their way across the street from a parked car, I might have gone away puzzled on this occasion too. Seeking not to arouse suspicion, I followed them around the corner toward the inconspicuous entrance. Once inside, we were welcomed to the Sweet Goddess Project by a gracious hostess and a flurry of literature as I toted my traveling music bag in preparation for dancing at the Shrine later that evening.
The exposed red brick wall and photo array to the rear of the performance floor foreshadowed the experience to come. A reminder of the gritty origins of underground dance born of any shelter offering open floor space and running electricity. Yellow and blue lighting framed the stage on either side hearkening back to the optics that live in night clubs and on dance floors where the music never seems to be loud enough. The DJ teased out with a mesh of electronic and world sounds at one point folding in a kalimba leading us closer to an audio crescendo, but drawing back before it culminated any movement.
My eyes darted between a Moleskine notebook and the audience. Each time I threw a glance about the room I found another familiar face from our exuberant community of dance living and breathing beneath the Chicago night. There was an immediate expansion of joy within my heart as we came together to partake of this expression. It was a feeling of kinship that existed here amongst us loving the music, embracing that sound and inhabiting a lifestyle. Enter Meida with her ever so gentle reminder, request and demand to silence all cell phones or other noisemaking devices.
Beyond this point in the performance, I must admit that I can not be entirely faithful to the journalistic intent. Writing notes about this show became increasingly difficult as I found myself so deeply engaged in the music, movement and layered visual experience that I was compelled to bang my drum at quiet and loud intervals throughout the show. My writing hand hushed so promptly that I found only time to jot down a series of terms hoping they might assist me later in transcribing verbally what I had experienced emotionally.
Playful. Brash. Synchronized. Spontaneous. Reminiscent. Nostalgic. Jazzy. Electric. Soulful. Soft. Sinew. Sticky. You may assemble those words in whatever order offers you the greatest measure of meaning and utility.
The Project made brilliant use of a series of video interviews that were done with groups of women regarding their experiences in the house music scene in order to punctuate the transition from one performance to another. These interviews covered first virgin steps into the party and onto the dance floor, carving spaces in party promotion and DJ’ing and extending the engagement of House music far beyond mere entertainment or social diversion into the arena of a philosophical construct for how we move through through the world as seen and felt vividly through women’s eyes.
I am a zealot, enthusiast, devotee and acolyte for the work of the Sweet Goddess Project and Honey Pot Performance, but you shouldn’t take my word for it. You should investigate and discover their process for yourself. On February 3rd and 4th, the collective will be performing at Northwestern University’s Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center in the Ballroom Theater. For more information on how you can partake in this work, visit the Honey Pot Performance blog or their invite on Facebook.