Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Dance Review: Preaching to the Choir, MilDRED Gerestant’s "When She Was King"

MilDRED Gerestant Haitian-American actress, MilDRED Gerestant’s one "woMan" show is a reflection of her own life.  She takes on the multitude of personalities within herself, both male and female.  She preaches self-love, and freedom of expression, ideas that I can’t argue with.  The problem is, nobody in the audience can argue either.  I guarantee that everyone in the liberal, open-minded, artsy, Dixon Place audience agrees with every message she delivers, preaching to the choir, so to speak.

MilDRED is introduced to us as a man, so from here on, I’ll refer to her as him.  Confused yet? This gender-bending back and forth is the most fascinating part of the performance.  When he’s a woman there’s still a hint of man, and when he’s a man, there’s still a hint of woman.  He challenges gender stereotypes by demonstrating that it’s possible to be both male and female simultaneously.

Throughout the show he changes costume as he changes personalities.  Each costume waits in its own chair in a semicircle of chairs, a crescent moon of spirits waiting to inhabit the body of the performer.  The transformation takes place in plain view, and we have the patience to watch these onstage costume changes because we’re watching to see what he turns into next.

Are You a Dancer?  Join iDANZ.com Today! The characters range from male to female, old to young, and slutty to holy.  Mac Dred wears a comically huge afro that takes on a life of its own as he busts out some super fly disco dance moves.  Mother Dred is an old lady who can still get funky, and Dredisha dresses in a slutty outfit and eats chicken wings with hot sauce.

The final Dred character is a peaceful, holy character dressed in white.  It is the purest character, stripped of all of the extra flair of the previous personalities.  He flows through yoga movements and repeats the mantra, "I am in love with me again, I am in love with me again."  And that is the end.

Although her intentions are noble and she puts on an entertaining show, it serves as little more than her own self-affirmation.  In a brief post-performance discussion, she said that she started to accept herself when she started performing.  I give her credit for discovering freedom of expression and wanting to share it, but the role of art needs to extend beyond self-therapy. Maybe I’m being harsh.  I was reminded to love myself, and that can’t be all that bad.

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Official Dance Review by Julie Fotheringham
Performance: MilDRED Gerestant,
When She Was King
Venue: Dixon Place, New York City
Date: September 26, 2009

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