Tuesday, July 27, 2010

That Loveable, Gender-bending, Savior Of Our Souls Named Alejandro

sketch by Mario Laterza
Alejandro in his chili bowl cut.

*Links for performances mentioned listed at the bottom of the page:

Do you want to reinvent yourself? You know, like changing your hair color and clothes, or do you want to change your whole being. Like become a totally different person. Lady Gaga knows how to do that and she knows someone who can help you, and his name is Alejandro.

Lady Gaga’s song “Alejandro” is one of the most abstract songs you’ll hear in pop music because the lyrics are more like symbols, and although there’s a narrative, the metaphors make it ambiguous. Since the song’s release, Gaga has used several visual concepts when performing her song “Alejandro,” but there’s a steady message in all of the performances, and that message is metamorphosis. The process of metamorphosis only happens when people never look back to their past, and keep evolving.

“Alejandro” is a song from Gaga’s album The Fame Monster, and the song doesn’t seem very monster-like, but if you’re knowledgeable about Gaga’s avant-garde approach to music then you’ll see the connection. Gaga once said when describing her album’s monster theme that we humans are all born with the demons inside of us, as in Christianity’s original sin, and we will all sin in our lives. She finished with saying the monster theme is about the evolution of humanity and how we begin as one thing, and we become another.

It was in November 2009 that Gaga started performing “Alejandro” for the first time. The performance was pure Performance art that featured Gaga penetrated by men in simulated ways. Interestingly, Gaga says “Alejandro” represents the Fear of Sex monster. The male dancers are dressed in flesh-colored bodysuits and masks on their head made of what looks to be a mini version of a human rib cage. Presumably, the rib masks are a reference to Adam and Eve. Christian religion states that God used Adam’s rib to make the world’s first woman Eve. One of Gaga’s male dancers uses his hand as a phallus to lift Gaga up by her crotch. Then another male dancer arrives to caress both his fellow male dancer’s hand and Gaga’s body.

She then lowers to the ground lying on top of the two men as if they were her sofa. At an awkward position with her butt in the air, Gaga smokes a cigarette. Then she takes another puff of the cigarette and rubs her sparkly cone bra, as if for luck and raises her hands to the sky, perhaps God. Next the other dancers disappear, and Gaga throws away the cigarette as different male dancer approaches her. he sticks in his crotch in her face and starts thrusting against her face. She hangs upside down with her back resting on his thigh, and his butt facing the audience. As he puts his hands out as if sacrificing himself, Gaga pats his butt on makes the all-seeing eye of God with her fingers, placing in front of her dancer’s butt. They are two people as one.

“This is for all the lovers you left behind,” says Gaga after that sensual display of interpretive dance and Performance art. The “left behind” part stands out because it refers to the past, and Gaga encourages her audience to never look in the past because there’s a fear of getting stuck there, and never escaping. The religious aspects of the performance lie in the masks made of rib bone, and the phallus (means the penis is an object of generative power) symbols throughout that reference the male as primary, and the female as secondary. This performance from November 2009 evolved over the future months into something even more religious.

In March 2010, “Alejandro” as a performance evolved into a place resembling the Garden of Eden, full of trees, vines and benches. A large silver statue of an angel or Saint with spread wings in the middle of a fountain full of blood. Gaga tells her audience that it’s the Fountain of Youth, which is “the only fountain that bleeds for you.” The male and female dancers perform ballroom dances and strike balletic poses. Some men dance with women, and some men dance with men, but all the women and men are human, making them all of the same flesh, the human flesh.

The Alejandro saint.

In the Bible, it says that there will be a day of Rapture where Christ will present a glorified church, the church that he laid down his life for. He died for the sins of the human race. People prepared for the day of Rapture by cleaning their physical bodies and spiritually washing in blood, which means that their sins were forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. A verse from the Bible is as follows. Even though the outward man perish, the inward is renewed day by day. No matter how old we get in years, and if this body of clay does deteriorate, wrinkle and become old, we can have a beautiful, new, fresh lively spirit in Jesus Christ, new, without spot or wrinkle, and full of life. And when we are called at the time of the Rapture this old body will be changed in an instant. Or if we are called before that time, the beautiful soul will just slip out of the body. And at the time of the Rapture or the Resurrection, we'll be given a beautiful new body. Our bodies will be changed.
This verse is all about metamorphosis and evolution. It’s about how existence (physically and spiritually) is about taking different forms. Even in death, a person’s existence evolves.

The most recent televised performance of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” on NBC’s “The Today Show” connects the song’s theme of metamorphosis to gender. The men begin the performance as just dancers, with nothing gender-specific about them, other than their obviously male bodies. The male and female dancers performed the same choreography. It’s not until the second verse that some men engage the only two female dancers on stage (note: there are five male dancers on stage) in a ballroom dance.

At this point, the dancers have embraced recognizable gender roles assigned by society. In the middle, the two sets of opposite-sex couples embrace and bite each other in the necks like vampires, and they drop to the floor, feeling weak. But of course they rise back up and are visibly different. The “masculine” men who led their women in a dance only minutes before are now reborn as stylish catwalk creatures strutting with ferocious glamour. Gaga’s newest male dancer Cassidy Noblett visibly mirrors his former female partner, Amanda Balen by putting his hands on hips and striking a pose right after she does. I’m sure the mirroring part is a nod to diva worship well-known in gay culture.

The blurring of gender in this performance is the same concept used in Gaga’s “Alejandro” video where her male dancer s dress as German WWII soldiers (think “Cabaret”) wearing monk bowl-cut wigs and high heels to bikini briefs and stilettos. What the gender-bending men in “The Today Show” performance and the “Alejandro” video do so well is keep their audience guessing: do they really act like that, are the “effeminate” or “masculine” or both, or are those physical actions just part of the show? All of these physical actions demonstrated could be their real identities that make up one diverse identity.

Alejandro turned out to be quite a man, didn’t he? You got more than what you bargained for, but I hope it was worth it and I hope that you are enlightened. Lady Gaga tells him that she doesn’t want him to call her name anymore, but you can call his name. He wants you to, so remember that.

Link for Today Show Performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEdhOS72998

Monday, July 26, 2010

Michael Silas Sacrifices His Life For Lady Gaga

Michael Silas performs at Gaga's Monster Ball in St.  Louis

Dancer Michael Silas becomes an important part of Lady Gaga’s lesson about blood, sex and religion in front of 20,000 people. She sacrifices Michael and lets him bleed to death with her on stage, and then she brings them both back to life.

As a classically-trained dancer, Michael Silas has been using his body as art for almost his whole life, but he has only been using his body as part of high-profile Performance art since he started dancing for pop star Lady Gaga. Recently Gaga showcased Michael in a July 17 performance of “Teeth” comparing him to a famous savior, and in the process revealing a scintillating detail about Michael.

At the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, Gaga seemed like she was winding down to the finish of her song “Teeth” wailing like a soloist in a black gospel church. Wearing a blond, Marilyn Monroe wig, a skin-tight latex leotard and blood smeared all over her body, Gaga looked like she stepped out of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Her dancers stood behind her frozen with their backs bent forward and their blood-dripping teeth clenched. The cameras flash in the audience, and the crowd screams with delight. Then Gaga addresses Jesus saying “Jesus, way up there…heaven…psssst. Some people say, Jesus, that you only love a certain kind of people. Some people say that Jesus only loves one kind of person, and not everybody, not every religion or every race or every ethnicity or sexual orientation.” The crowd roars when she says the last thing, and Gaga pauses for a few seconds. “But you have blessed me. And I know bleeding to death in front of 20,000 people every single night on a world arena tour that Jesus must love everybody.” She pauses and then repeats “Jesus, must, love, everybodddyyyyy!”

Gaga gets on the floor, and crawls until she’s lying on her back directly under Michael Silas’ crotch. He’s frozen in the same position he was before, and his legs are wide open. She speaks “This is Michael” and she caresses his leg, from calf to thigh. She proceeds “I like Michael so much because Michael likes American girls” and Michael sticks out his tongue and starts moving it as if he’s eating cherry pie. Then Gaga continues “But I also like Michael because Michael likes American boys.” The crowd explodes with cheers. As she says this, Michael moves his tongue around his mouth as if he has a lollipop in his mouth. Hmm…American boys. Then Gaga says “Just like Jesus…” and Michael crosses himself in the Sign of the Cross and spreads his hand as if presenting himself to the crowd, as Gaga says “Michael loves everybody.”

Next Gaga starts singing like a gospel singer as the rapturous electric guitar starts back up, “Show me your teeth” and Michael gyrates to the moaning guitar riffs, and removes his hood and thrusts his hips forward with Gaga still under him. It’s almost as if Gaga’s singing and the guitar-playing are speaking for Mike, who as a dancer can only use his body to communicate. Gaga has resurrected Michael, just like Jesus. This is made particularly clear when Gaga sings “I’m a free man, and Jesus loves everybody,” because obviously she isn’t the man, but Michael is. He makes a motion like he’s choking on a disco stick as Gaga wails, and then he even lip-synchs her wails. The words “I am a man. I am a human being. I am a me, and I was born this wayyyyyy! Show me your teeth!” It’s clear as day that Gaga is a reverend and this performance is her sermon.

You may call Michael a prop for Lady Gaga’s theatrics, which he is in a way, but the art reveals a little about Michael Silas. A dancer uses his body to speak, and not his vocal cords. Gaga used Michael to exemplify her audience who are largely gay, lesbian and transgender, or however they see themselves. Gaga wants the world to know that she and her little monsters were born this way. And don’t you forget it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lady Gaga and Her Telephone Effect

Gaga in her "Telephone" video.

By Chris Cole

For her 9-minute music video “Telephone,” Pop artist Lady Gaga takes the word “Telephone” from her single's title and turns it into a human condition brought on by American commercialism. It’s called “the Telephone effect.”

There are many references in Gaga’s “Telephone” video that support the concept of nature turning into product, and this concept drives the video. Gaga uses her video to rediscover the humanity she had in her childhood before becoming exposed to the products companies sold to her through their advertisements. The Telephone effect is that urge that people get when they see a product in an advertisement. Then the telephone in their head goes off, and makes them hungry for more and more, like a vampire hungry for blood.

The video starts out in a women’s prison full of anger and violence where she sees glimpses of the life experiences that make her life uniquely hers. The guards escort Gaga into the women's prison and put her into a jail cell and strip off her clothes. The scene cuts to the prison exercise area where women lift weights. Gaga wears glasses made of active cigarettes blowing up smoke. The cigarettes on Gaga’s eyes represent her blindness from commercialism. Steel chains wrap around her body. She’s a prisoner. Next, Gaga is in a jail cell with a bunch of women. Gaga stands dressed in a black studded leather jacket with spikes down the sleeves that references the Crust Punk scene of the ‘80s. She wears short blond hair with Diet Coke soda cans rolled in it. Gaga’s mother uses to use soda cans as rollers during Gaga’s childhood. A woman with long brown hair and sunglasses stands next to Gaga. This woman is a doppelganger of Gaga’s old self before the fame, the woman with long, dark hair waiting tables in New York City. The loud speaker announces that Gaga has a phone call for her from Beyonce. Gaga answers.

Beyonce brings the food that Gaga must feed on to stay alive. Beyonce arrives in a frosted package of sweetness, like a human honey bun. The bright yellow car she picks up Gaga in is the Pussy Wagon from the film Kill Bill. She opens up a honey bun package and holds it out for Gaga to eat. Gaga takes a bite and then Beyonce takes a brisk bite. The brisk sound of Beyonce’s bite is visceral. It makes you hungry. By taking a bite out of Beyonce’s honey bun treat, Gaga is essentially taking a bite out of Beyonce because the honey bun product, in its crinkly packaging and sweet, frosted texture, represents Beyonce. Hence, her name “Honey B.” Beyonce discards the half-eaten honey bun out the window. Its image against black asphalt is a shiny piece of product on something hard and ugly. The discarding of the honey bun represents how humans crave something and then eat it to satisfy the craving, only to shit it out. The half-eaten honey bun becomes road kill.

“Once you kill a cow, you gotta make a burger,” says Gaga, dressed in a 1940s power suit that’s definitely an homage to legendary actress Joan Crawford. As Gaga says, if you’re going to kill something, you might as well make a product out of it because that’s what the businesses and the media do. Turning death into product is what fast food restaurants do. They kill cows and use their meat to make quick money. The media turns death into product whenever someone dies, whether the victim is famous or not. Sometimes the death is the death of a reputation, and of course the media covers this religiously. A half-finished fountain drink from a fast food restaurant, crumbled up wrappers binded inside the pussy wagon’s cup holder reference the death of the food and drink. The food and drink was consumed and then peed and crapped out. On to the next product to eat and waste out. Gaga takes Beyonce’s picture with the Polaroid camera. It’s another example of instant satisfaction, and something going in and then quickly coming out. The Polaroid camera is like a mini factory in itself where the camera makes a copy of life, and then poops it out and discards it. It dies.

Beyonce in "Telephone" video.

It’s in a diner, a symbol of America and buddy movies, that the video’s culmination takes place. Beyonce enters and meets her boyfriend Tyrese there. The placemats on the table are shaped like American flags. The name of the diner is “Diner: Homestyle Cooking.” Another piece of America lies in Beyonce’s wig, which is pure Betty Page who was a racy 1950s pinup babe. The diner’s customers are of different races, ages, colors and sizes and probably different sexual orientations making the diner a melting pot and a symbol of a diverse America. Tyrese goes up to the diner's bar and smacks the butts of female patrons. Watching closely, Beyonce pours poison into his coffee. A logo of a skull pops up in the screen next to the bottle of poison in Beyonce’s hand. Even the poison is turned into a product, and once again death is a product.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lady Gaga Named Most Creative Person In Business By Fast Company Magazine!

Link to Dan Macsai's article: http://www.fastcompany.com/100/2010/01/lady-gaga

Lady Gaga Is Shocked At the Honor
The moment after reading writer Dan Macsai's article about Lady Gaga in the June 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine, listing the 100 Most Creative People in Business, I knew that I had never read something like it before. This article is concise, structured, and full of colorful quotes that speak to the heart of Lady Gaga’s way of thinking.

The structure of the article is what really makes me smile because the structure makes the article flow. Macsai really composed the article smartly beginning it with an intro that mentions Gaga’s music first instead of her outfits. From there he builds the article into a presentation of Gaga as an artist and a fantastic business woman.

The article’s title “Lady Gaga, Pop artist” alludes to the dual meaning of that title. It’s her occupation, but there are two aspects of that occupation: in the musician sense and in the artsy Andy Warhol sense. Gaga is a pop singer who makes pop music, but she’s also a Pop artist who makes Pop art just as her idol Andy Warhol did. Like Warhol, Gaga takes pieces of pop culture and re-contextualizes them, and as a result assigns the pieces new meanings.

In the opening paragraph, Macsai uses Gaga’s lyrics to show that she uses references from her own life experiences in her music. He also mentions her humble beginnings and the drive she had to achieve her dreams, and this mention foreshadows the incredible accomplishments that make up the rest of the article.

Macsai sums up what Gaga does as a performance artist in the second paragraph. By talking about the references of her brand, such as “disco stick,””Madonna’s glitter-glam fashion” and shocking, Alice Cooper-like performances, he links that sentence to the following sentence about critics calling her derivative. Disco is from the past, Madonna is from the past and Alice Cooper is from the past. Then he discusses how Gaga’s brand spread like wildfire because of the Web. The paragraph ends with a sentence mentioning the power of Gaga’s brand when it’s partnered with another brand.

Macsai uses the next paragraph to show how Gaga’s ubiquity has made her attractive to other companies with their brands to sell. He talks about how the Web has helped Gaga become ubiquitous, and has made her brand global. The last sentence of this paragraph refers to her “outlandish fashion sense.”

The power of Gaga’s mind-blowing outfits is the focus of the following paragraph, and how her brand is fueled not only by the Web, but by the visual sense of her brand. The visuals support the other aspects of her brand, like music and social commentary. The last sentence points out that Gaga’s visually-strong music videos dominate the Web.

That flows into the next paragraph that has a topic sentence that points out that Gaga’s music videos function as marketing tools, as well as artistic statements. Gaga gives the brands and products exposure, and uses them as social commentary. She is simultaneously participating in the capitalist system she comments on.

The article focuses on the business side of Gaga, which makes sense since it’s a part of Fast Company's “100 Most Creative People in Business” issue. It’s also appropriate because Gaga is constantly used as an example of brilliant public relations, branding, marketing, which all makes for a great business plan. She does everything right and it’s a great thing to see. The quote from Polaroid CMO Jon Pollock about how when he met with Gaga he expected her to talk about “pink boas," but instead she talked about digital strategy and the best way to reach her generation is telling. It proves that there is an intelligent mind that exists behind Lady Gaga’s artifice.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cassidy Noblett Role-Plays with Lady Gaga and Brings Class Back to Dance

He smiles with pleasure. His eyes twinkle with seduction, and his body moves with the elegance of the Nutcracker Prince or the darkness of a monster. This body belongs to a professional dancer named Cassidy Noblett.

Cassidy is the master controller of his body, yet he never seems robotic and never unnatural. When a performance calls for energy and joy, he flashes his big, life-changing smile, and when a performance calls for tender sexiness, he becomes William Shakespeare’s Romeo. When Cassidy needs to be strong and graceful, he becomes Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Prince, and if he needs to be dark and dangerous he becomes a monster. All of these expressions show how Cassidy uses his great acting skill to make his dancing come alive, and touch your heart.

Right now, Cassidy is most famous for being one of Lady Gaga’s dancers on her ongoing Monster Ball Tour where he gets to play many different characters. The tour plays to all of Cassidy’s strengths as not only a dancer, but an actor. Recently, on July 9, 2010, Cassidy performed three songs with Gaga on NBC’s The Today Show Summer Concert series. For the first song “Bad Romance,” Cassidy’s hands become monster claws and he lopes around the stage like a panther who’s both beautiful and lethal. His hair is styled in a looser version of Elvis’ famous pompadour hairstyle. His white vest, corset, tights and Dr. Marten boots make him look like a ballerino turned punk. The peeling black polish on his fingernails adds to this image. There’s a standout moment when he gives a smoldering look of seduction that’s sexy, yet baby-faced and innocent. For the majority of Gaga’s songs, Cassidy embodies the fiercely stylish monster that knows how to work the runway and eat you for dinner at the same time.

During the song “Alejandro,” Cassidy plays three different roles in the space of three minutes. He begins the song a dancer acting out the narrative of Lady Gaga’s narrative about a woman and her struggle with resurrecting a love. By the time the second verse comes, Cassidy is a Spanish lover boy dancing a passionate tango with a female dancer.
The musical crescendo of “Alejandro” arrives and now Cassidy is strutting like a catwalk diva like Naomi Campbell, full of long strides and attitude. All of these performances show that Cassidy is one of the dancers most dedicated to his roles.

A few years ago, Cassidy said that he wants to bring a classical element to the commercial dance business because classical training allows for artistic depth. What he’s saying is that classical training is ageless and stands the test of time, as well as the basis for many other types of dance. I’ve heard that classical ballet training is good to have because it gives a dancer a base for his body, a good foundation, physically and mentally. Of course, Cassidy was trained in classical ballet at the North Carolina School of Arts. From what I’ve seen, classical ballet training makes dancers look like sculptures molded in the right stances. Their posture is regal, with shoulders firm and relaxed, and the lyrical lines when they dance look like they’ve been drawn by a painter. Cassidy is a perfect example of this because he moves to the strokes of the music, where he uses his body as the paint and texture atop the canvas of the music. Clearly, Cassidy is an artist, a human artist who makes each dance a work of art.

In a 2004 article from ExploreDance.com, Jennifer E. Wesnousky describes Cassidy Noblett as “technically and emotionally brilliant" in her review on the dance production Rhapsody: The Company. Wesnousky writes, “Poetry in Motion was both awe and tear-inspiring as Mr. Noblett, shirtless yet sheathed in intricately-tied white cloths which resembled bandages, unselfconsciously revealed his raw sentimental range and determination to continue on in the face of lost love and pain.” Cassidy Noblett is flesh and blood and makes you feel better of life when you watch him perform. His fluidity and spirit make me glad to be a human, and glad that Lady Gaga introduced me to such an extraordinary artist.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lady Gaga's Boy Toy Morphs Into Mickey Mouse

Lady Gaga has made her dancer Mike Silas a sex symbol for Little Monsters all over the world. Like Gaga, Mike’s layered persona adds to her performance art, and his love for reflecting the world through his mind and body makes him a Warhol in motion.

26-year-old professional dancer Michael Silas, also known as Mike, is a human camera who photographs the world with his mind and body. He and the woman he tours with, Lady Gaga share a concept of reflecting the world by using their bodies as mirrors, which was the basis for the work of American pop artist Andy Warhol.

Both Mike and Warhol reflect the world through their internal mirrors and cameras. Each man reflects an image that he sees in the world into his mind’s mirror, and then his mind’s mirror reflects the image into the mirror of a camera that people take pictures with. Next, the mirror of the camera reflects the image back out into the outside world that we all live in, so now the image can be reflected again through clothing and dance. With the mirror inside a person’s mind (the person’s mental camera and camera the person buys from the store), the person creates reflections of the world, just like the many mirrors in a dressing room that reflect one other’s images ending up in one twisted image, like from a funhouse mirror.

Mike has a love for photography, and based on the self-photographed and self-styled photos of him on Facebook, it’s clear that he knows how to capture the world on film, while making himself a part of the art. While on the Monster Ball Tour with Lady Gaga, Mike was apparently shopping at a Disney store in Japan where a bunch of Mickey Mouse key chains hang around him, and tin canisters printed with Mickey’s image surround Mike. Then Mike wears a Mickey Mouse mask where only the eyes are visible. The combination of Mike’s mysterious human eyes and the image of Mickey’s cartoon smile have a frightening effect because it’s that same creepy feeling you get when you see a dog’s head on an ant’s body. Also, the contrast of Mickey’s head (excluding Mike’s eyes) and Mike’s outfit of a black T-shirt revealing some of his arm tattoos and backpack straps is shocking because you can’t imagine Mickey Mouse wearing this, yet it’s very artistic because it shows Mike as combination of the wholesome and the edgy. The funny thing about Mike’s black T-shirt is that it has a white silhouette of Mickey Mouse on it.

Also, there’s a multicolored tile design on the wall that serves as Mike’s backdrop, splitting the shelves full of Mickey merchandise. In the end, Mike becomes Mickey Mouse, a parody of the world’s most famous cartoon mouse, and a symbol of America’s fascination with reproducing products for making money. It’s an example of Mike taking the mirror inside his mind and reflecting back one of America’s symbols of innocence, and corrupting it with his tattooed skin and edgy clothes.

The edgy pop star becomes a piece of art in Andy Warhol’s 1963 silkscreen print Triple Elvis. The print shows three identical images of Elvis Priestly pointing a gun towards the camera. This same image is printed on top of one another, making the three images of Elvis look like a trio of gunslingers. By repeating Elvis’ image, Warhol shows how symbols of pop culture like pop star Elvis can express the values of a culture, which is making copies of the same product, so that they can be sold in stores. Then lots of money is made from the products. Elvis’ image is like a product that anyone can manipulate into different versions and different shapes to make money.

Shape-shifting is the common thread between Mike Silas and Lady Gaga. Mike is an important part of Gaga’s performance art because of his tattooed body. The presence of Mike’s tattoos defies stereotypes because his many tattoos make him seem rough and tough. The choreography for Lady Gaga’s songs pushes the boundaries of gender and when Mike performs it, it shows that he can be masculine and feminine. Mike is the product of a black father and a Hispanic mother, so that’s why his skin is light. His tattoos are a combination of Japanese fish (inked onto his body in Japan) and a lion for his zodiac sign Leo, as well as other symbols that he uses as a diary of his experiences. Mike’s light skin is the perfect canvas to make his diary stand out with color.
During a performance of “Love Game” on Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour, Mike’s wardrobe looks like something out of the sci-fi A Clockwork Orange. He wears a white corset, white leggings, and a codpiece by his crotch area, and white boots that look like those Doc Marten boots that were popular in the ‘90s. A bone mask rests on his head with the point hanging down to the bridge of his nose, shading his eyes and looking like a bird’s beak. Mike’s face is made up with eye shadow and eyeliner. Also, his tattoos are exposed covering Mike’s lean, muscular body that makes him look feminine and masculine. So it’s a filled subway train car, a glowing disco stick and gender-bending costumes that pull the performance together. This is a reminder of how far Mike’s come since he first started dancing for Lady Gaga in 2008, when he had almost no facial hair and an ordinary haircut. Now he has facial hair, his hair shaved into different shapes, and Mohawks dyed fudge browns and cherry reds making him look like a punk rocker going against what people think is normal. The way Mike can always look so different is fits perfectly with Gaga’s performance art, including what he looks like and how he dances.

When Mike was teaching a Masters of Dance class, he gave his students a piece of advice about image that Andy Warhol would approve of. Mike said, “Just know that here [the dance class] is where you get your foundation and your confidence as a dancer, really look into this [touches mirror in the dance studio with hand].”When you look at your reflection in a mirror, the reflection depends on the mirror inside your mind. You could really look beautiful on the outside, but if you ugly on the inside then you’re going to look ugly on the outside. The idea of changing yourself into something different through makeup, clothes and movement of your body, is a way of destroying your ugly feelings, or just temporarily hiding it., Warhol thought himself ugly and tried to find beauty by making other people look beautiful in his artwork. Also, he photographed himself in drag, again transforming his image. As society often says, beauty is all in the eye of the beholder.

Dance Show Says Black Contestant is Too African

Jose Ruiz during audition.

Jose break-dancing.

If you didn’t already know, reality-television isn’t real. Instead it’s theater, and often bad theater. In the case of Fox’s ninth season of dance competition So You Think You Can Dance, it’s bad theater.

The judges on SYTYCD, namely the show’s executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, are trying to manufacture a winner. They’re trying to influence voters by making terrible comments about contestants with clearly more talent than the one contestant they’re trying to make a winner. That contestant is the baby-faced b-boy dancer Jose Ruiz.

Looking like a slightly lighter-skinned, corn-rowed version of singer Chris Brown, Jose Ruiz doesn’t do any other dancing except break-dancing, yet the judges are trying to make him the favorite to win SYTYCD. Jose along with tap dancer Melinda Sullivan were the two odd choices to make the Top 11 because their dancing is so different than than the other dances on SYTYCD, like ballet. Break-dancing and tap dancing is limited when it comes to performing other styles of dance. It's one thing to have a dominant style of dance like last year's SYTYCD winner Russell Ferguson (a hip-hop dancer), but Russell could perform other types of dancing. Jose can barely do hip-hop choreography smoothly. You would think with his break-dancing that he would be able to do hip-hop choreography, but he often comes off as stiff. Despite receiving the worst comments from the judges, Melinda wasn’t eliminated until the third week. Meanwhile, Jose is treated differently than his fellow contestants because he’s not trained in other dances, and although giving him good comments (for a b-boy dancer), Nigel Lythgoe went as far to say that Ruiz is not a good dancer, but he’s got a pretty face and solid acting skills.

 Last week, Jose performed a Bollywood routine that judge Mia Michaels said was “so wrong,” but he made it work because of personality and positive attitude. Follow that with this week’s episode where African-American contestant Adechike Torbert performed a Bollywood routine and was told that he made the Indian dance too “African.” The judges implied the race relation, but they didn’t say it directly. When host Cat Deeley pointed out to the judges that they had told Jose that his Bollywood routine had a groove to it (read: African, since apparently all black people can dance), similar to what they told Adechike, and Mia responded that Jose had more emotion. Adechike was on the verge of tears, but kept it in like a champ. It’s clear that the judges want Jose to win no matter what, and are willing to stomp all over people’s feelings in the process.

Adechike Torbert

Other than Jose there aren’t any favorites to win SYTYCD. The gifted ballet dancer Alex Wong, who made headlines with his excellent hip-hop routine, last week, was a favorite, but he ruptured his Achilles tendon (on his foot) and it’s not certain if he’ll be able to continue competing on the show. Sadly, I doubt he will. So that leaves just Jose. Along with Adechike, some of the other contestants the scheming judges are trying to sabotage include the soft-spoken Billy Bell. The judges don’t seem to be too enthusiastic about the wholesome cheerleader Lauren Froderman and the handsome, yet quirky Robert Roldan. They seem to like Ashley Galvan and the adorable farm boy Kent Boyd. Speaking of Kent, the judges are trying to market him to the tween audiences by getting him to say he’s single and that he’d likes girls who are like his mother. Aww, how sweet, right? Funny enough, he follows that with saying he wants a woman who’s like Beyonce. Suki Suki now!

At the end of day, the winner of So You Think You Can Dance is determined by the voters, so if Jose Ruiz can’t get the votes then he won’t be the winner. However, I wouldn’t put it past the judges to rig the voting since Nigel Lythgoe has a lot of power. Tonight is the voting results show, so let’s see which contestant goes home tonight.

Watch the show on the Fox channel at 9pm. Eastern

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Is Lady Gaga a Man in a Woman's Body?

Lady Gaga has taken the rumors about her gender and turned them into a game that she wants you to play. This game is all about making you think about gender in a different way instead of labeling people, man or woman, gay or straight.

Gaga was born a female and still is a female biologically, but gender is more about the mind than the body. She makes you wonder if she’s a glamorous female trying to turn men on, or a drag queen in a woman’s body. Is her admitted bisexuality a statement on the rumors of her being a hermaphrodite or simply a way to turn on men? Gaga wants you to ask these questions and redefine your idea of normal.

It’s the blond wigs, heavy makeup and eye-popping outfits that make you think Gaga could be a man dressed as a woman, so it’s no wonder that so many people believed those hermaphrodite rumors. Gaga says she feels like a gay man trapped in a woman’s body, and it shows in her music. On some songs, she sees herself as an insecure man who finds confidence by dressing as a glamorous woman on “So Happy I Could Die.” Lyrics like “I love that lavender blonde/the way she moves, the way she walks” or “I do my hair, I gloss my eyes/I touch myself all through the night/ And when something falls out of place, I take my time, I put it back/I touch myself ‘til I’m on track” are good examples of how Gaga sees herself as a drag queen. Something falls out of place, hmmm… I wonder what that could be.

It’s also interesting that on “Bad Romance,” Gaga chooses to mention three Alfred Hitchcock movies that all feature males as their main characters. The movies she mentions appear in the song as “I want your Psycho, your Vertigo shtick/want you in my Rear Window, baby you’re sick.” Psycho features a grown man who dresses up as his dead mother and kills people. Vertigo is about a man who won’t let go of the past, and he dresses up the possible love of his life into a carbon copy of a dead woman from his past. And Rear Window focuses on a man who’d rather look at other’s people’s lives from his bedroom window than live his own life. Maybe Gaga sees herself in these men. Maybe each male character is an extreme example of her different types of fans, the Little Monsters. Many of the Little Monsters are adolescents and young adults who are quirky and unusual who feel like they don’t fit in. Lady Gaga tells them it’s okay to be different as long as they are themselves. Even if that means dressing up and hiding their bodies or faces, if that’s the way they feel comfortable in their own skin.

In 2009, Lady Gaga revealed to the world that her No. 1 song “Poker Face” was about how she fantasized about women while she had sex with her boyfriend, but she kept it a secret for a while because she feared rejection. After hearing that information, you’d probably say that Gaga is bisexual and you would be right, but it’s the way she weaves her bisexuality into her art that makes her announcement so unique. She reflects the rumors about her gender with her magic mirror and turns it into art, and uses “Poker Face” as a way to comment on her bisexuality by saying her poker face is her mask, her hat and her veil of mystery. This obsession with covering her face, whether it’s with her fingers, veils, scarves or hats is a way of keeping part of herself private.

Gender is all about how people see themselves in their minds. Society makes the gender roles that we live with, but Lady Gaga wants you to break the rules. People only follow the rules because they care what people think, and Gaga says to be free. Whether you’re a man or a woman, transsexual or hermaphrodite, embrace your inner drag queen or your inner butch. Fly your freak flag and declare yourself a “free bitch.”

Alun Davies Punks Out Lady Gaga's Monsters

Lady Gaga's dancer Mike Silas wears Alun Davies disco ball armor.

Imagine a violent gang of hoodlums entering a night club and smashing its glittering disco ball into a thousand pieces, then murdering the people who live to dance under the disco ball each week; as if the disco ball were God and the night club their church.

Prop designer/art director Alun Davies takes the pieces of the broken disco ball and with them resurrects its worshippers by pumping their veins with glitter. He makes their once lifeless bodies dance as they begin a journey of revenge and self-discovery.

                    Above sketches by Alun Davies

These disco zombies wear glistening motorcycle helmets, shoulder pads and kneepads designed by Wales-born Alun Davies, that he calls “disco ball armor.” The outfits are the official costumes that Lady Gaga’s dancers wear whenever Gaga performs “Bad Romance” on her Monster Ball Tour. As a result, Davies’ outfits have become a central part of Gaga’s performance art each night of her tour, functioning as visual aids and telling a story of vigilantes seeking revenge on a cruel world.

It’s the vigilant spirit of the story Alun Davies’ disco ball costumes tell that is undeniably punk. The imagery of Davies’ costumes makes Lady Gaga’s male and female dancers look like characters from the movie Mad Max, as does the red smoke (dry ice) that covers the stage in a red fog making it look like the apocalyptic wasteland of Mad Max’s Australian landscape. Keeping with the constant symbolism of Gaga’s work, Davies’ disco ball costumes reveal a lot about punk culture and the ideas it represents. For instance, the checker-patterned motorcycle helmets are symbols of protection, suggesting that the dancers are warriors, and the shoulder pads make the dancers resemble the samurai-influenced villain Shredder from the ‘90s box-office hit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Again, the kneepads are similar to Shredder. Therefore, the costumes do what Gaga does in all of her work, they reference various pieces of culture and sew them into a single structure, and as a result mirroring culture in a distorted way. On the whole, the punk spirit of the disco ball costumes is a warrior spirit.

The “Bad Romance” song itself is Lady Gaga’s love letter to the original punk culture of the mid-‘70s and the ‘80s, with its lyrical references to “leather, ““studded” and “revenge” and “criminal,” and she wants to inspire people around the world to unlock their inner punk. By unlocking their inner punk, they’re freeing themselves from their self-made and society-made prisons. For this reason, the “Bad Romance” performance ends with Gaga and her dancers away from the smoke-covered apocalyptic wasteland of the main stage and onto the stage’s apron closer to the fist-pumping audience, where the dancers remove their glittering disco ball helmets. Now the dancers have finally reached a peaceful place free of war, where they don’t need to protect themselves with body armor.

Alun Davies reminds the world that’s seen his disco ball costumes on the Monster Ball Tour that Lady Gaga is more of a punk than a pop star, and now the world can raise their fists high and sing at the top of their lungs to the shining light of the disco ball.

Lady Gaga's dancers wear disco ball armor by Alun Davies. Gaga wears a dress by Armani Prive.