Graham Cracker

Mark Dendy Celebrates His Inner Drag Queens

Though it both satirizes and deifies his influences, Dendy insists that Dream Analysis is his story. "Everything else was a study that led up to this," he says. "I did that book The Artist's Way, where you write three pages a day and make all those collages and everything. This work came out of that book... as Martha Graham would say, 'the handling of the material of the self.'"Dream Analysis's protagonist, the starry-eyed Henley, who explains the complicated network of influences crashing through his psyche to a psychiatrist played by a drag queen, seems miles away from his no-nonsense, done-it-all-twice creator. "The boy is absolutely totally me," Dendy insists. "There is an innocent naïve idealistic hopeful inner child in me."

Yet 10 years ago, when it was just an enfant terrible, Dendy's inner child seemed to have been kidnapped. "Throughout the whole '80s, I drank heavily and did a whole lot of drugs. I'd get back from Europe, blow everything I made, charge money on my agent's credit card, hit the West Side Pier and hustle for three days, and then go on another binge. I was a mess! Then everything fell in on me at once. Spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially. I moved into Hotel 17 for two weeks. It's a hustler hotel with roaches. It's nasty and skanky. And it's gross."

As much as its theatrical component tells a story of the redemption and reconciliation of opposites, Dendy's choreography illustrates those themes with a brash clarity and humor that often proves more viscerally affecting and inventive than the text. Particularly exquisite is the final sequence, in which the two Nijinskys, accompanied by Claude Debussy's "L'Apres-midi d'un Faune," perform a sensuous and virtuosic duet, practically in unison. At first running in place beside one another, occasionally breaking the pattern with a flourish of the arms, they begin to trade focus. Dendy blends his classical training with athletic cartwheels, quirky jerks, and strange spins. They stand on each other's calves. Twice it seems as if one Nijinsky has kicked the other. The Nijinskys use their hands for guides, elaborations, and punctuation. They slide over one another's backs, entwining limbs. At one point, they kiss in a way that does not seem labored, sentimental, or political. Their lips just happen to be in the same place at the same time, so they come together. Here, it seems, "that moment" takes on a greater meaning. No longer is it the matriarchal Martha, Mother, psychiatrist, or Judy Garland recognizing the seeker through the mirror; it's Dendy, recognizing himself as himself.

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