"Come walk with me," the mild-mannered "flight attendants" cooed softly. Then they led individual "passenger" groups to the second-floor studio at the Dance Alloy, where they discovered a "cabin" area encased in plastic.
There Philadelphia-grown IdioSyncrazy proceeded to explore "Private Places," presented by the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. It took its inspiration from multiple service occupations, but primarily centered on the airline industry.
The group did a workshop and informal pre-performance this past summer, but the final product had been expanded in so many ways. The overall arc began with a cool, professional demeanor, just a thin veneer over the roiling emotional kettle underneath, and gradually stripped it away, along with the airplane seats and all of the performers' clothing.
The intensity gradually thickened as the eight dancers ordered the passengers (and each other) around. The movement vocabulary reflected that as well, taken from pre-flight safety demonstrations, an obsession with arranging almonds and j-setting (a descendant of voguing).
The soundscape? It was the tick of a metronome, which could be maddening in itself.
Sometimes that intensity interfered with the intent, as to whether it was satire, black comedy or just a wry sense of humor. That made "Private Places" seem uneven and, at times, uncomfortable.
In the end, this was a rather long, but still intriguing essay about human behavior. That included the audience, some of whom scurried to obey orders to move, along with others who pushed back, revealing issues of control.
Those who were watching became a part of the action as the piece progressed, opening up their own private space (willingly or unwillingly) and breaking down the barriers between artist and audience.
And that was the fascination of it all.