“Why can’t we actually have people get up and dance or let people drink in the theater?” asks Nicholas Leichter, who plans an immersive dance experience for his company’s latest show, Breakdown, running Thursday through January 30 at the Flea Theater in Tribeca.
The evening’s format tends towards fusion. “It’s got the element of dance, cabaret, burlesque, freak show, circus.” A Mount Vernon native of Jewish and African American descent, Leichter favors the term “urban,” which he calls a “mix of cultures—the collage, the hybrid.” He chooses popular r&b, such as Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu, to explore themes of identity, self-knowledge, sexuality, and spirituality, and adds to the mix DJ Eddy Chai, who will spin over set music and between numbers. Though they’ll play off one another, neither Leichter, nor Chai, nor the dancers know exactly what to expect. As Chai explains, “That’s part of the intrigue.”
Despite his work’s popular appeal, Leichter asserts, “It’s not MTV. . . . That’s the stuff I use ironically.” All the works, including his striptease solo Baby Doll, a new duet with Clare Byrne, and the premiere of the group piece Worth, seek transformation or “letting the demons out.” In his world of “disco analysis,” subtle irony confronts brash pop reserves, and joins demanding physicality with bound emotion to emerge somehow renewed.
For Leichter, “the earthly pleasures, they all bleed together,” and lead to a spiritual opening. “Good and bad, heaven and hell, it’s all right here. And in some ways that’s the show for me. That’s the work.”