Six individuals test the limits of their comfort zones and their bodies through rigorous athleticism and aggressive sensuality to confront and contest systems of assimilation and integration. Armed with only a bullet of red lipstick, they transgress borders, binaries, and the complex relationship between identity and geography. Daring, discomfiting, and darkly hilarious, The Lipstick presents mystic possibilities of cosmetic transformation while dancing the fine line between what is sacred and profane. It recognizes how strong the desire to belong is, and how potentially dangerous that can be.
The Lipstick allowed me to continue an on going exploration around the desire to emancipate the male body of the definitions placed on it in both the art form and in broader concepts of masculinity and masculine identity. Masculinity is not homogenous. Its complex, fluid and multi-dimensional, much like national identity. What would happen to the gender binary - might it even disappear - if we were to liberate the dominant side of its stable definition? The Lipstick provided an opportunity to continue to exercise freeing the wild woman in the male body, to wrestle with the tensions and trauma I feel about my gender identity, and to celebrate masculinity even as I struggle under its hegemony.
Digging deep into concepts of the male body allowed for deeper interrogation of the concept of a national body; and the binaries and borders that exist to grant some people the freedom to move freely and others not.
The Lipstick premiered nationally as part of Neil Barclay's 40th Anniversary Season at The Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans October 2016, and premiered internationally at the Kunstquartier Bethanien in Berlin Germany July 2016. Development for the project began in January of 2015 through Dancing Grounds AIR residency as a personal exploration of my Arab roots, and quickly evolved to encompass further research into human rights in transition and human law in translation with particular focus on migration, alienation, assimilation, displacement and queer identity. Research support and the opportunity to publish about the work came via the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies at North Carolina State University, and through the International Colloquium for French and Francophone Studies held in Baton Rouge where sections of the piece were presented as part of a panel on Dance and Phenomenology. In July of 2016 myself and musical composer/performer Rebecca Crenshaw conducted laboratories based on our process and research for the piece in residency at FIX-in Art in Thessaloniki Greece, where we also had the opportunity to work with Syrian refugees in camps on the border of Greece and Macedonia. In September 2016, I organized a panel on the Trauma of Displacement: The Syrian Refugee Crisis as part of The Contemporary Arts Center's Education and Outreach Program.