"I'm actually sitting on my couch researching bra burning right now," says Kelly Anderson, choreographer for Danceworks' upcoming The Bra Project. "In 1968, underground radical women needed a target. The Miss America pageant was live on TV, so they showed up in Atlantic City with a 'freedom' trash can for lipstick, girdles, bras and other 'items of torture.'
"They even had a goat dressed up," she adds. "I can't include a goat! I wish I could. Point is, no bras were burned. A New York Post writer compared (the idea) to burning draft cards. He called them 'bra-burners,' even though no bras were ever actually burned.
"But we're going to use lots of bras in the show," she continues. "We collected 591 so far-all donated. So one exciting point: You could come to the performance and see your bra. Some old men bring them in, too. It's so cute. I've got a shell bra, a coconut bra. One set is pink and furry with matching hat. We'll be using them as props, and costumes. The remaining bras will be quilted and raffled off [for breast cancer survivors and education]."
Danceworks calls the production a "revealing history," where dancers "bust" out new moves. What should attendees expect to see? Other than, well…bras?
"Men, for one," Anderson says. "Ironically, Danceworks now has three men. It's a record. And it just so happens we're doing a show about bras. But they're really physically strong, well-trained, multifaceted dancers. It's an honor to work with them, and nice to have a man's viewpoint sometimes."
In describing the dozen pieces of the show, Anderson says: "It's going to be…very varied. Some are more campy. There's kitsch. It's a colorful show, and very pop-oriented. There are short interludes; gathered stories, dealing with a specific aspect or small tidbit of history. It's very human; touching issues every person can attach to or identify with-like men taking off a woman's bra for the first time, and how vulnerable that is.
"It's hard to stray from props," she concludes. "Turning the physical into something abstract is difficult. And 'the bra' is a broad topic. You're talking about the history of an item… It's so, so vast. But it's exciting to develop and experiment with-fun, too. It's amazing the movement you can get with a simple bra."
The Bra Project runs Jan. 23-Feb. 1 at Danceworks Studio Theatre, 1661 N. Water St.