Firstly, “Ally Up!” was a fantastic opportunity for people watching. During the pre-show hour or so of hotdog eating and mingling, I saw the highest number of mustaches in one place than any other event I’d been at and at least four feminist t-shirts in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision, including one of a uterus giving the middle finger. The show took place in the parking lot behind the shops at Salt Lake City’s Maven district, with different murals on the back of each building. Chairs were set up across from each other; like we were on the home and away bleachers of a high school football game and we were gearing up to fight the other side of the audience.
The dancer’s entrance was the best I’ve ever seen. As the music grew louder and louder, building anticipation, the dancers rode in on the back of two massive motorcycles. As they stared each other down and the bikers revved their engines, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling.
The motorcycles, the deeply saturated makeup, the hair piled high, and the sound reverberating created the sense of something incredibly huge about to happen. “Ally Up” was partly inspired by an “all-female wrestling match witnessed in Mexico” and everything up to this point felt like it was leading up to a real match about to happen. Throughout the three rounds of dance, this tension kept building then ebbing. The two dancers circled, convincingly looking like two people who wanted to beat each other up. Their high jumps on the pavement and stare downs with audience members were intimidating. The moments of physical contact, one dancer’s fingers prodding the other’s torso, stuck out in the stretches of unison. Sometimes the music would ramp up to an intensity that the choreography didn’t quite match, either a speed or some sense of bigness that was missing. In between rounds, assistants brought the fighters water and hairspray. Instead of a ring girl, a ring boy walked through carrying signs that said “winning cares” and “eat them all.” Rather than ending in victory for one dancer, the dance seemed to end in a draw, resolving the threat of physical violence.
What I kept thinking of while watching was if I was supposed to be reading this as queer. Maybe it’s just my own bias or seeing so much queer art during pride month, but the tension between the dancers seemed less violent and more homoerotic. I felt guilty at first at this conclusion that my brain jumped to. Because female sports are so often sexualized, is reading a relationship on the dancers a part of that sexualization? No, is my answer to that question. The show incorporated queer aesthetics. The hyper exaggerated makeup on the cheekbones and the massive hairstyles coming from drag culture’s play with femininity. The gender role reversal of the Ring Boy. The butch women driving the bikes. Two days later, I’m still thinking about reading art as queer even if it wasn’t intended that way.
On another note, I enjoyed NOW ID’s event-organizing decisions. There were tiers of seating from the front row, second row, bring your own barstool, to the standing room. I chose “BYO barstool” which I think is a fun viewing option for any outdoor dance event. The show also featured the artwork of Jamie Clyde, including a large banner reading “I AM DEAD” in yellow letters that marked the event entrance. The hotdogs – both meat and veggie – and the drinks encouraged socializing both before and after the show. The show’s curation was thoughtful and intentional; they succeeded in combining the atmosphere of a wrestling match, a tailgate, and a ballet.
Ally Up!, performed June 25, is the first in what NOW-ID hopes will be a series of outdoor events in the Maven district.
This article is published in collaboration with loveDANCEmore.org.
Tori Meyer is a performer, choreographer, and dance educator based in Salt Lake City. She received her Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Modern Dance from the University of Utah in 2021. Her choreographic work has been shown at loveDANCEmore’s Sunday Series, Deseret Experimental Opera, Queer Spectra Arts Festival, Damn These Heels Film Festival, Salty Showcase, Finch Lane Flash Projects, Salt Lake Unity Festival, and Red Butte Gardens.
As always NOWID never disappoints, the choreography of Charlotte was athletic, artistic showing the power push pulls within our world today. For me as well it was about gender, race, art, politic’s but a very good way to display our lives in general in the last three years. We loved experiencing the Mavin District. I felt similar things as the writer when watching.
Very nice review — I couldn’t be there and felt as though I were perched beside you. Thanks for the comprehensive write-up. An enjoyable visit to NOW ID’s latest event. We never get our fill of Charlotte and company.