It will consist of empty dreams, high fashion wars, and dollar smiles.
It will be filled with disco bombs. All I want is for you to be in the show."
-- Combichrist, In the Pit
So, I got the opportunity to go to the Cell for the first time on Thursday night (7/7/11).
The Unsinkable Molly Mitchell (who, I believe, occasionally performs there) actually let me know about it; mostly, I suspect, because she's just so damn awesome. So many thanks go out to her.
Venue: The Vagabond Ballroom
The Vagabond is a very cozy and classy little spot hidden inside a kind of "multi-warehouse" building right next to a little residential strip in Oakland.
Dominated by a small stage, with a nook bar to one side and pleasantly decorated all-around, the location serves as an excellent and charming space for Dark Couture. It's small enough to allow people to talk to one another while still hearing music and seeing performances, while still providing a surprising amount of open space (even with the furniture around the edges and near the bar).
My only complaint is that the bar has a very limited alcohol selection (though this may be something that changes from event to event). They had Bombay Sapphire, so I was safe - and scotch would probably have been limited to Johnny Walker Red... so it's still serviceable and we probably shouldn't hold it against them. I just really wanted some decent scotch that night. :)
The Vagabond is not a place for large crowds though. The space is small and best used for small gatherings and performances (such as the Cell and Club Solace).
Dark. Beautiful. Deviant. Elegant. Disturbing. Fun.
These are just some of the adjectives that came to mind as I watched the performances. Most of them were interesting goth and industrial fusion belly dance pieces, involving excellent musical choices and clearly skilled dancers.
There was even one "hip-hop" style piece, and, while I generally don't care for the style or the music, the dancer seemed technically proficient and was clearly enjoying herself and being enjoyed by the crowd.
If I knew the names of the dancers better, I'd really love to give shout outs on each performer. I recall one name, but to focus attention solely on her (even though she was exquisite to watch - I've seen her at some of my favorite events and my simple mind failed to recognize that her delightful dancing in those venues reflected a broader artistic intention) would be an unfair disservice to the rest who were also equally fantastic and enjoyable to behold.
EDIT:I've managed to get the names of the dancers I got to see at the Cell (Thanks to Mistress Paik!) -
Dusty Paik (www.snakechurch.com) - I missed Dusty's first performance of the evening unfortunately (as she describes it: a gory, grimy gypsy piece), and for that I am very sorry. But she was also our "hip-hop" dancer mentioned above. I do want to make clear - despite my stated antipathy above to "hip-hop" dancing in general, Dusty was, in fact, a joy to watch. This latter performance was both saucy and fun. I hope to expand my appreciation of Dusty's repertoire in the future.
Ariellah (www.ariellah.com) - This dark angel is the one that I have seen dancing (and enjoyed watching) on the dance floors at some of my favorite clubs, all while failing to realize that she danced professionally. As I've come to realize, everything that Ariellah does is elegant and lovely. As with Mistress Paik, I missed her first performance as well as a performance by her troupe of students, known as Forlasi (For shame Mister M!! For shame!). But her second performance was one of a soft, understated, and dark beauty, supported with a somber music - like watching the ceremonial funereal dance for the dead emperor of a dead world.
Marjhani - This wondrous dancer came to us from the wilds of Arcata. I actually got to catch both of her performances, much to my immense pleasure. Marjhani's work was decisive, proud, and mysterious, backed by a solid industrial sound. And her intense eyes felt like they locked on you as you watched her, seducing you further into her power. I couldn't look away, and I hope to be so seduced again in the future!
Jodi Waseca - Jodi's piece was, in turns, haunting and disturbing, involving a cracked-faced porcelain doll, a black lace blindfold, and a blue shroud (really the only way to describe it)that she shed partway through alongside her blindfold. I honestly can't remember the music, because I was so rapt with her performance. I remember it being dark and moody and maybe a little fractured... which is fitting given that her portrayal was the same.
The hostess (and occasional performer, though she didn't perform this night) Madame Deidre Anaid really has something to be proud of with the Cell. She's built something wondrous and darkly lovely with a feeling of neo-Victorian elegance and culture - exactly the sort of event that this self-appointed (and self-obsessed) art critic wants to see more of.
Concerts and clubs are awesome, of course. Don't get me wrong. But the style and intimacy of a salon is really an experience in itself and, as far as I'm concerned, we can all use a bit more art in our lives.
Ultimately, I'm hoping to see a broader range of performances at the Cell in the future (maybe small musical/vocal performances, poetry and other written art readings, single-scene single-act plays, non-dance performance art; just to name a few examples/suggestions) - but what I saw certainly sufficed for a first taste and a solid start.
As such, I'm adding the Cell to my own monthly "Grand Tour" of the Bay Area's Underworld.