File under unlikely dance performances: A humorous ballet about sexy, powerful, nasty girls gone wild.
That's what San Diego Ballet will be serving up in its forthcoming show, Eternally Bad, opening April 1 at the San Diego Museum of Art.
The world-premiere show is based on Trina Robbins' book of the same name, which examines the darker side of feminine power. In her book, Robbins asserts that when feminism reintroduced the goddess into pop culture, the goddess mythologies were scrubbed of naughty behavior to make them more palatable.
“By doing that, they actually took away the power of a lot of the imagery,” said Javier Velasco, Eternally Bad choreographer and San Diego Ballet co-artistic director. “The power of lots of mythological female figures was that they were so intense in their feelings and their actions-the power of their actions came from these violent emotions.”
The show celebrates the original bad girls-ancient goddesses who steal, trick, outsmart, vamp and ass-kick their way into getting what they want.
Inanna is a power-hungry Sumerian goddess of the heavens who gets her grandfather drunk to steal his wisdom. The Japanese goddess Uzume invents the striptease to lure the sun goddess out of a cave and save the world from darkness. An American Indian bear-woman eats all the women in a village in order to sleep with all the men. Greek goddess Artemis prefers girls to boys and turns a peeping Tom into a stag, to be hunted and killed by his own hounds. From Isis to Jezebel to Kali, these women know how to wield their powers of seduction and destruction.
“Women were not originally perceived as powerless,” Velasco said. “Somewhere along the line we've gotten into our minds these symbols of femininity and the softness that goes with it, and the idea of the ‘weaker sex.' What does ‘weaker' mean? These prehistorical women were meaner, and badder, and more powerful than any male figure that was put out there. And that kind of power is not to be taken lightly.”
The show, however, is. Along with expanding perceptions of femininity, Velasco is interested in presenting an oft-unseen side of ballet-one that's lusty, fun and, perhaps most surprisingly, funny.
It's also an opportunity for Velasco to mix ballet with visual art and drama, with local actors joining the dancers onstage. The music, too, is diverse, ranging from classical to a track from local blues singer and former sex worker Candye Kane.
Oh yes, and let's not forget the sex. Though the show does offer lots of “eye candy,” it's not R-rated, Velasco said. “We are talking about men and women-and sometimes women and women, and sometimes men and men,” he said. “It's a show for people to come to if they want to have a good time. But not if they have these preconceptions of ballet as something that is beyond being human”-that is, if you view ballet as some exalted art form that should be free of sloppy sex, blistering fury and screwball merriment.
“They're going to see a very human show.”
And humans are nothing if not drawn to sex and humor. With Eternally Bad, Velasco capitalizes on the voyeuristic and comedic potential in watching people-or goddesses, as the case may be-behaving badly.
“When you see ‘Girls Gone Wild,' what are you watching? Are [the women] empowered? Is it not a question of power? Are they crazy? What is that craziness in the human condition? And why do we enjoy watching it?” Velasco said. “The show is a chance to figure that out. With a lot of my work, I like to put out the questions as opposed to give answers. And, hopefully, I put out the question in an exciting, entertaining way.” B
Eternally Bad runs April 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. and April 3 at 7 p.m., at the James S. Copley Auditorium at the San Diego Museum of Art. Tickets are $18 for museum members, $20 for nonmembers and $10 for students, and available through the museum or Ticketmaster.