Amongst a psychedelically patterned backdrop enter five dancing fembots. Their faces are brushed white with dense makeup, contrasting fervently with bright red lipstick, cobalt eyeshadow, and fluorescent, multicolored wigs. Four of them move and sway robotically to the beat in their fetish friendly getups, while the fifth swings lazily back and forth from the rafters on a large aerial hoop, achieving a truly strange and titillating performance that seems almost too bizarre to be real life.
Anna and the Annadroids feels like an Andy Warhol fever dream—a surreal and visceral multi-media performance, combining dance, original music, and video production, fusing the avant-garde qualities of Dadaism with thoughtful post-modern criticism. While the show may leave you with a temporary LSD flashback and a handful of unanswered questions, Columbus-to-San Francisco transplant Anna Sullivan’s vision has more substance than just a few flashing neon lights and scantily clad dancing Annadroids.
“I think that sexuality is a natural part of our primal being—you should be able to explore that,” Sullivan said. “In our culture you can be sexy, but not too sexy—if you are then you’re a slut…so how does that work out?”
Sullivan explores these double standards, as well as a variety of other themes in her newest production Faux(pas)bia. Between 2005 and 2011, Anna and the Annadroids made their home in Columbus, benefitting from funding from Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Ohio Arts Council, staging countless performances around the town, from private parties to fetish friendly events like Trauma and Comfest.
“My time in Columbus really helped me develop something that would not only be artistically satisfying but satisfying for audiences. Dance tends to be just heavily academic—it doesn’t usually have that level of entertainment, so I want to try and combine those two…to make something that is deep and intelligent, but at the same to leave inspired and want to come back. I feel like being in Columbus really helped me formulate that idea.”
In 2011, Sullivan moved to San Francisco, wasting no time securing grants, putting on new performances, and building a Rolodex full of determined creatives to join her team, including a CCAD illustrator, Uko Smith, for her accompanied graphic novel, and her trusted technical director Alexi Alexaieff, who has helped conceptualize the delicate intertwining of dance, video production, and originally composed music.
“The different aspects of the multimedia have really come together for this production— the aerial dance is a huge component to adding to the entertainment quality of the piece, as well as the video environments. Having [Alexaieff] join as a collaborator has really upped the level of the productions for sure.”
Although her shows often posses jubilantly childlike imagery of dancing androids doing silly things in skimpy skirts, Faux(pas)bia, uses fear as the central thematic device. According to Sullivan, considering the tumultuous and fearful state of our country, the timing was just right.
“Fear and phobic situations are being pushed in our face constantly. You can’t even open your Facebook without being like, ‘Oh my God, are we all gonna die?’ It’s gotten so bad, so I feel like it’s really relevant. Faux(pas)bia resonates with me so deeply. You can choose to be afraid of something or not, and I think, for me, that I struggle with the not. I am admittedly afraid, so the challenge is figuring out how not to be. That’s why I am inspired to create art based on the mechanisms that I make up to cope with my fear.”
In a time where fear and anxiety are more prevalent than ever, we look to escapism as a means for positive outlook, to momentarily view the world through the lens of an artist.
“Performance art makes people feel less isolated. I feel like it’s our way of sharing how we are coping with the world, allowing the audience to join in.” •
Faux(pas)bia will be debuting in Columbus March 30. For more information on ticket prices and show times, visit capa.com.