Thursday, March 15, 2012

Everyday I'm CHERYLIN'

I had heard of CHERYL before, while reading a New York Times article called "Going Gaga" in 2010, about the increase in highly costumed but punky downtown events happening in New York, but hadn’t been able to do anything about until last weekend. CHERYL, a performance art troupe based in Brooklyn, was written up on Time Out New York for hosting epic dance parties all over the world, featuring items like cat masks, fake blood, unitards, and glitter. I wanted to go almost instantly.

And then, while perusing information about the opening of the Cindy Sherman exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, I found a link: MoMA PopRally presents CHERYL, in celebration of the Sherman exhibition. So, not just CHERYL, but MoMA and access to the exhibit there. My brain began working. It would be the weekend while TDS was visiting. Did she want to go with me? The answer, to my delight, was yes. Happily, ALiCo, SC, JB and JT were able to join us as well. We bought our tickets online beforehand and it’s lucky we did—the day before the event, all the tickets were sold out.

TDS and I were too excited. Over dinner we watched CHERYL’s video on how to CHERYL—yes, there is a dance, and no, I won’t teach it to you, but you can watch it here and do it at the next CHERYL party you go to. It’ll be done at least once, I’ll promise you that.

We arrived early because we didn’t know what the line would be like to get in. Turns out a bunch of people had the same idea, but it wasn’t crowded at all yet. We sipped some wine and walked around the space, which had been filled with mannequins airbrushed with different shades of foundation makeup. I found out it was foundation when I touched it, thinking it was dry paint, and it got all over my fingers. Plus it smelled like flowers. We were able to write on the mannequins and take pictures with the disposable cameras tied to their wrists and necks.

Photo courtesy Sara Mingle via iPhone
A group of dancers wrapped in various forms of nude and/or white underwear, stockings, corsets, bald caps—which I would later find out were a ‘naked costume’—made their way to the dance floor, set up in the MoMA lobby in front of a DJ booth holding up a red and white CHERYL sign. They weren’t just ‘whatever’ dancers, either. Their movements were tight and sophisticated, like modern dancers let loose for the evening. They painted their faces with dark eyes, too-dark foundation, strange cheeks, and odd lips. They were fantastic.

Other CHERYL-ers were men and women decked in black with painted-on mustaches holding cameras or just flashbulbs they’d press every so often. Buttons pinned to their blouses read ‘DANCE’ and ‘CHERYL.’

TDS in cat mask
Photo courtesy Sara Mingle via iPhone
We made our way down a red carpet where we were able to get either face paint or cat masks from men and women wearing Crayon-red bobbed wigs, turtlenecks, and jeans. We opted for the masks, resting them atop our heads and walking around some more looking at the space. Not a lot of people had arrived yet, so we went upstairs to check out the exhibition. I think Cindy Sherman’s an evil genius, forming and photographing herself into different female tropes and bringing out the grotesque in all of us, but this blog post isn’t about that so it’ll have to wait for another time. It was interesting, though, to see how CHERYL had taken that grotesqueness and transformed it into something livable—foundation on the mannequins and strange makeup/gender-bending its staff.

Not too long after, though, we moved onto the dance floor and so did more people. And more people. And more and more and more until the entire lobby of MoMA was pumping with body heat, balloons, masking tape, tin foil and green fabric. One woman was topless. People were breakdancing. There was a girl wearing shiny green leggings with black leotards, some other people wearing hipster glasses they didn’t need, boys in skinny jeans, older men in button-down black shirts and greased-back hair, chicks in long black skirts and oxford shoes, cross-body bags slung across their bodies, a dude wearing a 1970s mesh jersey tank top with vintage brick red pants. Most of all, though, they were just people who liked to boogie.

Photo courtesy Sara Mingle via iPhone
The DJ played music I didn’t know for the most part and I didn’t care. There were sick beats we could all shake and stomp to, waving our hands in the air wildly as confetti fell from the sky and the room spun in a kaleidoscope of colored lights while CHERYL videos, with performers in the signature cat masks, played in the background. There was sweat and dance and boys kissing boys and girls kissing girls and boys kissing girls. There was a conga line. There was vogueing. There was even a kick line performed by my friends and I. And of course, there was CHERYL. At one point, all of the CHERYL staff moved to the lobby’s raised platform and began the dance. TDS and I did it along with them. “WE CHERYLED! WE CHERYLED!” we squealed afterward. I watched TDS’s eyes light up. “This is just...I can’t even…It’s so perfect.” It was.

The website for CHERYL is, but I think they say that because every day that you don’t CHERYL will never be the same. CHERYL will make you wish every day was a wild, crazy, weird, artsy, naked, loud, sweaty dance party with a trembling, writhing mass of bodies. So maybe you won’t CHERYL all the time, but you can rest assured that whenever you do CHERYL, it will be perfect.