By Walter Rutledge
A Walk In Our Heels began as a dare by one of Abdiel Jacobsen’s private ballroom students. Jacobsen acquired a pair of high heels took up the challenge starting a blog called A Walk In My Heels (awalkinmyheels.com). The blog documented his travels throughout New York City as a man wearing high heels for over a year. This experiment became the catalyst of his choreography A Walk In Our Heels, one of the works performed during the 40th anniversary of the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center on June 22, 2016.
The work, which has evolved since January 2016, presents a different perspective on Latin/rhythm ballroom dance. Jacobsen put both the male and female dancers in high heels and simple rehearsal wear. With accompaniment by a solo vocalist Greg Osei and percussionist Meredith Butterworth the atmosphere produced a “stripped down” version of a ballroom.
Audience stood around the parameter of the performance space, which created a “performance in the around” environment. The informality reminisces a small Argentinian milonga and draws the audience into the visceral excitement of the work. “It’s a concept that celebrates the ballroom expression while challenging its traditional representation of gender and sexuality”, explains Jacobsen.
The work did raise issues of gender and sexuality, due primarily to the amount of original ballroom material Jacobsen and his partner Kelsey Burns seamlessly executed. But it was during the other moments where new elements were introduced that the true character of the work became clear. Even in these moments the choreography retained a strong male/female dynamic, but there was a greater level of equality.
The collaborative process of dancers, musician and vocalist became the real focal point of the work. Osei joined the couple in the space, and at times his presence redefined the performance boundaries. While Butterworth’s percussive score gave the work a textured Afro-Latin favor. Hopefully Jacobsen will continue to explore the movement and inherent theatrical possibilities, and keep testing the boundaries of the work.
A Conversation With Abdiel Jacobsen- A Walk In Our Heels