Dedication to a play party (2022)

You can listen to this musing here or read it below.

The second round of SALONGEN (the parlour) had its rise to greatness and descent into stories about a week ago. It’s probably the project closest to my heart, as it’s the best opportunity to keep researching the in-between space. It feels unbelievable to be offered a theatre in the middle of Stockholm with all the possibilities to make an amazing play party. The professional lighting, the adaptable stage, the acoustics for live musicians, the props and furniture. And it makes it feasible to build it all from an empty black floor to a landscape of decadent dreams in about ten hours, have the party, and then tear it down again. One of the visitors is a writer and a storyteller, and afterwards, they told me that they often dreamed about writing about a secret society of artists and artisans, but it’s no longer needed because they are now a part of it. Every time I do this creation, there is something to learn, and this musing is a dedication to those learnings.

The first SALONGEN had the theme of meeting places, so the room was rebuilt into a number of realistic scenes. There exists a park bench under a street light, a dirty, broken toilet, a Freudian clinic, a banker’s office with a colossal painting of a patriarch, and so on. There were strict rules on entering one of the scenes, and no physical interaction was allowed off stage. The mood was abstract and dream-like, and very hesitant. And there was an atmosphere of sincerity in committing to play. One of the musicians said that we were on the moon.

The second SALONGEN, which happened two weeks ago, had the theme of repetition, so this time the architecture was more about a cyclical structure of time than a division of space. From time to time, the room would fade to black and the music to noise as a symbol of death. Then, all the visitors would return to a fixed position in the venue, waiting to be reborn: new light, new musician, and another chance to do it all over again, maybe in the same way, or maybe completely different. I think the repetitions brought a sense of safety to go a little deeper each time. And this safety turned into a carnal love-making.

We created an orgy. It’s the best word I can come up with to describe it. Maybe it’s because one of the biggest taboos that people come to explore at play parties is the public display of sexuality. And usually, it doesn’t go all the way. Unless there is a swingers party, but then there is no mystic, no creativity, no vulnerability, but just plain old fucking. Judging on the few times I have done rope performances to entertain high society swingers or ended up in a swingers club disguising as a BDSM club in a city that I didn’t know. Anyway, having both at the same did feel magical. The same musicians described it as the sinful and lust-filled Hieronymus Bosch-like scenery of hell your local church would warn you about. It was damp and decadent compared to the spacious and light moon.

But also, plain sex bores me. Maybe it was too safe, and many people think that fucking is the ultimate, the fourth base, the place to go, the goal of the home run. I often think it depends on what “skills” people have. Or to realize that there are skills to accumulate to function well in a play party. There are all the touch, presence and movement-based practices—the improvisation, constellation and storytelling stuff—the ritualistic, meditation and transcendental modalities—the ecstatic, blues and contact dances. And then, of course, there is conscious sexuality. So when people lack these skills, they seem to default back to fucking, or talking; that’s even worse. But don’t get me wrong; sex is one great end of intimacy, but only one of many.

The problem with an orgy is that it burns out quickly. And then people get tired and start to think about going home; because they are not enough for the party. I think this is wrong. For me, a good play party welcomes all different feelings, including being slow, dreamy, and sleepy. It’s just as much a meditation as a celebration. One place I got to practice this was at the contact impro jams. I was studying theatre directing and dancing with a small group almost weekly. I remember this evening when I was so mentally exhausted after rehearsing a scene for hours. Lying on the floor, I was totally disassociated from my body, and my head kept spinning with dialogue from the play—my skin against the cold floor. The weight moving along my spine. A light show behind my eyelids. I stayed there for hours, slowing down, reconnecting to my feeling being. From time to time, some other dancer made contact with me. A fingertip moved against another fingertip for a short period. Tiny, tiny dances. But that evening was so important for me. And I wish that people visiting SALONGEN could be happy with such an experience.

So next time, we slow down. And work with dedication to all the feelings and all the expressions of intimacy. I have a nightmarish memory from the last SALONGEN. A man half-jumping around on his way home with one leg in his trousers while trying to say thank you and exchanging numbers with the other visitors. It’s so sad and selfish. His party was over; he was going home. By acting this way, he wasn’t only breaking the rules of the play party but also making a statement that the party was ending for everyone because he was on his way home. When he said thank you to me, I wanted to ask him never to come back again. I try to tell myself that he didn’t receive the skills to participate in such an event. They are not really taught in school. And it takes time to acquire the dedication to stay present and focused while hormones and fantasies run wild. So next time, we will work with dedication, and I’m looking forward to it.