THEM Conjures the AIDS Epidemic and All Its Subterranean Fear
Jeremy Pheiffer, Michael Watkiss in THEM, PC Rachel Papo
If you want to know how scary the AIDS epidemic was in the 1980s, come see Ishmael Houston-Jones' piece THEM from1986. This piece reveals the subterranean fears that crept into gay relationships at the time. Houston-Jones is one of downtown's great improvisers, and his six dancers also improvise in response to his suggestions. With Chris Cochrane's edgy guitar riffs and Dennis Cooper's ominous text, there's an unpredictable, near-creepy but epic quality to THEM.
THEM premiered at P. S. 122—which was a hub of downtown dance that ran the gamut from silly to serious, serene to outlandish—and was revived in 2010. Now, just after P. S. 122 has been transformed into a spiffy new venue called Performance Space New York, THEM is being revived again, from June 21-28. Perhaps bringing the rough-edged THEM back is an attempt by PSNY to get back to its roots.
My best running buddy was on my left. To my right, a total stranger with whom I'd suddenly become competitive. As the 15-person group headed into a two-minute push, the instructor got hyped, and the remix blasting Rihanna's "We Found Love" transitioned to "Smooth Criminal."