I chose Luis because his program bio said he had trained as an acrobat and trapeze artist. He met me in the anteroom. He was handsome—brown hair and eyes, a slight growth of stubble. He told me his dance cost 10 dollars, took my money, and asked me to remove my shoes. We walked together up several flights of stairs and he led me on a roundabout path to a white tentlike room, bare but for a small television, a recycling bin, and a rope of knotted clothes. I sat cross-legged on the floor and Luis began to dance.
Hautnah, Felix Ruckert’s sprightly brainchild, challenges notions of art and commerce, spectator and spectacle, creating startling intimacies. When we arrive, we’re ushered into a café space to drink, mingle, and peruse the biographies of Ruckert’s 10 dancers. Once we each select an artist, we follow staffers to meet him or her, and negotiate the performance price. A new room is entered and the one-on-one solo begins.
Performed all over Europe and Canada before arriving in New York, Hautnah carries about it a singular scent of excitement and transgression. The backrooms, the money changing hands, the selection of a dancer, are all redolent of the go-go bar or strip club. And, while I cannot speak for all the dances, having participated in only one, the experience is sexy. It’s very wonderful—and not a little scary—to find yourself alone in a room with a stranger who’s dancing only for you. When Luis, in the middle of his piece, knelt across from me, locked eyes, helped me to my feet, and maneuvered me into a slow duet—all twisting arms and soft steps—it felt more singular and personal than I imagine any lap dance ever could.