When I walked in the door to SOFT by the Touch Collective, it was clear that this was a highly sought after and exclusive event. The entry hall was populated by interactive art, my favorite bit being mush that looked like radioactive clay sitting inside of a giant vulva. The interplay between projected images on many of the different pieces made them feel alive and meant to be played with.
After I found my seat, I was greeted by the oh-so soft and jazzy stylings of Rhona Rubicon. She gently strummed her ukulele and sang lyrically whimsical tunes. Honeysuckle scented poof-balls were passed around that reminded me instantly of baby powder. Vodka based watermelon cocktails were doled out and a caviar pearl salad followed shortly after.
About halfway through her set, Rhona pointed out the bed-like viewing area at the base of the stage. She invited an audience participant to lay there and gaze up at her as she sang. For the last few numbers a green haired burlesque hula-hooper (Ryder Strong) moved around the stage. Her dances were the perfect pairing for Rhona’s light vintage stylings.
We broke for a ten-minute intermission in between each act, giving everyone enough time to interact with the art.
After we took our seats, a straw hat wearing Nino Soberon graced the stage with his guitar. He requested that we humor him and snap after his numbers rather than clap. His quiet sonatas reminded me of the jazz musicians of old. On the table sat a diffuser full of grapefruit and vanilla scented oil, and this round included a cold brew whiskey cocktail and a sesame seed blondie to nosh on. Later on, Ginnifer Joe moved along to Nino’s set. She wore an oversized soft white t-shirt and her dances reminded me of the gestural dancetheater matriarch Pina Bausch’s work.
Next up was Christelle Boufale. Her beautiful jazz and R&B tunes were some of my favorite for the evening. She reminded me of one of my favorite artists Lianne La Havas. Her music was served up alongside a gazpacho foam and a yaupon bloody mary. Large bowls full of dry ice and lemongrass scented oil spilled a misty fog onto the tables as the piece commenced. Christelle’s dancer was Judd Farris who performed a piece with a pink piece of fabric that reminded one of a more embryonic time.
For the final act, large rolled felt tendrils scented with cedarwood and douglas fir were put in the center of our tables. Before the music began Kelsey Oliver inflated a large white cloud on stage and got inside of it. Emily No Good then began creating a soundscape in front of us through her loop stations and pedals. Ambient guitar with relaxed and dreamy vocals rang through the air while Kelsey performed a movement sequence from inside the cloud. The effect was fascinating to watch and challenging to photograph. I’d seen Kelsey dance in one other performance prior to this one and am always amazed at her sheer athleticism. As they performed, we were given a small vegetable skewer and turmeric mezcal cocktails.
This ambitious project was certainly a huge undertaking. There were so many moving parts and components, but I believe the music and movements that went along with them were a perfect pairing. The food and drink choices were adventurous but many went unconsumed. I also believe that it’s hard for anyone to drink four rounds of alternating liquors. With personal preference being a huge part of how and what somebody will consume, it’s hard to account for everyone’s palates. I quite enjoyed the aromatherapy as well, but wished that smells had been more pervasive for the entire performance.
I look forward to the future work that the Touch Collective will put on, and wonder how the presentational aspects might change as things progress. Being part of this night of multi-media art was an experience like none other.