Fresh off a Greyhound bus from Maine at age 19, performing artist Jeremy Wade found himself at Squeezebox, a "drag, tranny, rock 'n' roll bar in Soho." As Wade explained in a February 5 interview for STANCEcast (Velocity Dance Center's podcast), his emergence into the New York dance scene began with the inspiration to "take all my clothes off, [and] in a pair of heels, just go crazy." Years later, with numerous awards, training from Amsterdam's School for a New Dance Development, and recognition as a leader in dance, art, and performance art, Wade continues to electrify the spaces he occupies.
Tonya Lockyer, Velocity's artistic director, discovered Wade when Fountain was listed as one of Artforum's 2011 "best dance" picks. This solo piece is hard to define as dance, performance art, or improvisation, and that, Lockyer says, is what makes Wade so interesting: His comingling of visual and performance elements creates an edge, but also points back to the foundation of dance (a combination of light, movement, etc.). In Fountain, Wade uses audience participation to create an environment in which he is able to "crack his shell" and become a physical conduit of expression, not just for himself, but for everyone in the room—a fountain.
Wade told STANCEcast that Fountain differs from performance to performance, depending on audience response and the culture of the city. Sometimes, he says, the energy generated can catch him off guard, and if people are really, truly resonating with what's happening in the room, he cracks that shell. (What this "cracking" looks or feels like remains to be seen.) Sometimes it doesn't work, and the performance is, in his words, "formulaic." Either way, audiences have been thrilled as Wade explores that seed of ecstatic movement, "the paradox of surrender yet control, the heightened awareness yet loss of self [that creates] the meat and potatoes of the conflict inherent in ecstasy."
Typically, dance audiences sit in the dark, watch someone do their thing, and at most talk about it later. (Some of us go home and try to replicate it in front of the bathroom mirror.) But Wade's work depends on the audience to a highly unusual degree. Even though the phrase "interactive performance" scares the pants off of some people (me), it's okay. You can leave your pants at home.