Precocious Partners

Young artists literally put themselves on display

Michael Helland and Daniel Linehan first gained notice in a duet they showcased at “Young Americans,” a Food for Thought event curated by Miguel Gutierrez at Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church in January 2005. The dance, called “Precious Little Something,” is a warm, witty display of resistance to and discovery of young queer love—which turns out to be entirely true.

Helland describes the history of this young couple’s relationship as a soap opera. They met at University of Washington, from which they both graduated in 2004.

“For three years we were the only two males in the advanced level of the dance program,” says Helland. They were in class together, in dances together, and even had to share a hotel bed when they went to the American College Dance Festival. But it wasn’t until they started making a piece together that their feelings toward each other became known.

“We were collaborating on a rock wall site-specific piece,” said Helland. “There was a lot of harness work, a lot of unconventional rehearsals. We had all these collaboration meetings, which we later realized were really dates.” During their collaboration wrap up meeting on performance night, they confessed their love to each other.

After graduation and three months apart at different dance festivals, the two moved to New York—Brooklyn, to be exact. On arrival, they began instantly to make names for themselves, as performers, creators, curators, panelists, workers, and generally nice, fabulous guys who do their own things—together, alone, and with others as well.

The couple’s latest project takes place over the course of three twelve-hour periods in storefront windows that makes the street their audience. Titled “Stranger Danger,” the piece features the duo—encased in separate plastic cylinders—manufacturing an environment of awkward social confrontations where each imagines the other is unfamiliar.

“Our relationship has so much we can use,” says Linehan. “There is no one else I can be as vulnerable with in rehearsal; that produces material that wouldn’t come out with anyone else.”

“Stranger Danger,” however, is about the opposite of being in a relationship. Role-playing and Internet messaging were used to generate ideas and material for the work, originally presented—at Joyce SoHo and The Flea—in a proscenium context. This third episode extrapolates features from the 10-month creative cycle and takes the public space directly into account.

The window acts as both a protective barrier—for audience and performers—and a permeable container. Helland said that duality became all too clear when he came out of the space after scouting it and someone shouted, “hey faggot” at him.

“The piece is totally gay,” he admitted. “We’re wearing full body nylon.”

“Was that an isolated incident? How secure is your personal safety? There are no Chashama body guards,” he said. “No back door exit. I’m afraid of adverse reactions; but this is about bringing the work to the fabric of the community.”

The live installation will be performed without interruption. Each hour there will be a certain type of event or action, with a progression over the course of the day. Every week’s performance will be distinct. Audience members are encouraged to attend multiple dates and intervals.

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