It’s Thursday evening, and in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles about ten or fifteen blocks south of LA Live in an area defined by empty buildings and closed shutters, a transformation is taking place. It does not feel like the venue for the forthcoming party of the weekend, but work is underway. Sure enough, two days later, this space will have morphed into the otherworldly setting for the Lucent Dossier Experience’s Private Party, described by one reveler as “like the best Halloween party ever.”
The sumptuous mix of music, dance, aerial, and interactive performance will take us out of Los Angeles for a few hours and into the strange and wonderful world of Lucent Dossier. After a week sat behind a desk at work, it will be the perfect evening of escapism, but as Dream Rockwell (founder of the Experience) says, “Is it an escape, or is it a new possibility of how we could live?” For the Lucent family this has become a full-time gig and a way of life, as evidenced by their now annual trips to Coachella as part of the Los Angeles-based company the Do LaB.
“The Do LaB started about nine years ago. I think we were inspired from Burning Man, and we wanted to create events in the city that had a similar feel of freedom,” says Dream, who has been the director since the inception of the troupe. “We wanted to have things that were accessible all year round so more people could experience how that feels, that freedom of expression. We call it ‘reinventing the default world.’ You get to experience it for a night and take that home with you, and it sort of changes you in a way.”
Linda Borini, a choreographer who originally pursued a career in dance, remembers realizing after seeing a Burning Man photography book that “this is actually somebody’s life. This isn’t just a week or a moment or a weekend. People lived that lifestyle all year round and made it a business and made it a livelihood. So that’s what inspired me to get involved.” There is something compelling about this story of people who come to Los Angeles with dreams of Hollywood, only to veer off in another direction and become the creators of their own dreams.
The Saturday night Private Party does indeed have echoes of the Burning Man experience with its hallucinogenic qualities and often throbbing dance music backdrop, as well as elements of Cirque Du Soleil’s throwback to a time of more vivid live entertainment. The interactive qualities of the show are perhaps the most impressive. Performers regularly mingle and dance with the audience, there are coffee grind readings, small sideshows wherever you look, and even a bedazzling and make-up service to add the finishing touch to your costume. Indeed, enough people have come to the party in their own wild outfits that the line between audience and performer (particularly after a few cocktails) becomes truly blurred.
I ask Dream if this was always the intention:
“That was always part of it, right from day one. I think that one of the original concepts was to break down that fourth wall between the audience and the performer. I think when reality TV started happening, it made me realize that people just wanted to be heard and seen. Everybody wants a stage at some point, even the shyest people at some point want to be heard. One of the concepts when we first started was that we don’t want people just to look at us and worship; we wanted to worship our audience back. We started creating service stations where we serve you. By coming to our event, you’re serving us. You’re allowing us to create our art and do what we want, so to show our gratitude back to you, we serve you.”
Dream may be the ringleader here, but as she explains the creative process is refreshingly democratic:
“In the dance world, one person creates a show, and maybe hires somebody else to do the music, and then they come and tell everybody what they’re supposed to do. In Lucent, I would come with a time period, a color palette, a whole world we were in. I would have them lay on the floor and say ‘Ok, the year is 3032, we’re on Earth…’ and I would paint a whole world for them.
Then the musicians would start to make music, and they would bring the music back to the dancers, and they would start to choreograph stuff, and we would pass the information around. In the beginning, I would make all the costumes myself, so when I would put the costumes on someone, they would say, ‘OK, now the costume’s on me. I feel like this,’ and then the characters would grow.”