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The Steampunk Circus Comes to Town


Carly Pifer | October 6, 2017
A brief history plus what’s next for Lucent Dossier, a boundary-pushing performance art spectacle.

Contortionists, fire throwers, sword swallowers, dancers, aerialists, and spoken-word poets (oh, my!) converge on one stage. Who is behind this impeccably costumed steampunk circus? Lucent Dossier, a name that means “a collection of glowing light” and, for those in the know, a guaranteed mind-bending experience.

This dynamic theater troupe was founded in 2004, just two years before Sylvie Barnett, a music industry vet, discovered them. I was immediately captivated by their mysterious allure and freakishly magnetic and radiant energy,” she describes in Magnetic Magazine. Now, 10 years after her first Lucent Dossier experience, Sylvie caught up with Linda Borini, the group’s creative director, to discuss their recent tour and what to expect next.

A hint? The unexpected.

Here’s an excerpt from her interview in Magnetic Magazine.

Sylvie Barnett: What is your creative process for building a piece?

Linda Borini: The performers and pieces of music that I work with ultimately inspire me. I think about the theme of the show and how we will build it. I break down the song into sections and develop the whole act. I love empowering the dancers and choreographers. I choreograph the whole piece overall but I don’t necessarily choreograph all of the steps, allowing my dancers to choose some of their own steps.

SB: What does Lucent Dossier want their art to say to the world?

LB: It has changed over the years. This show had a very low budget. This was our first large tour on the West Coast and we needed to be smart about how we did things. Once I started working with our composer Chris Adams, I realized that I had the opportunity to bring a little of what Lucent meant to me at the very beginning. I was originally a ballerina and then I was onstage with these freaks. I wanted to bring that back.

With everything that is going on, I feel like we need to get back to this very moment as the group of people who can see things further and pay attention to what is really going on behind the scenes. Let’s use this drama and reality to connect with people and remind them that they can go bigger and learn how to become more conscious. In learning to be more conscious, we can become more godlike. That is what art in general means to me but I think Lucent has a very fun and silly way of expressing it.

SB: How did you come up with the concept for this particular show?

LB: In recent years, we have been doing a lot of ethereal and avant-garde work but I was missing a lot of the silly and the dirty and the grunge. We have grown as a company and our skills are so much sharper. In this show in particular we couldn’t do much aerial or fire, so we had to do mostly dance and fill up an hour of entertainment. We just decided to go fun, and I think it really worked out. To me, Lucent is giving a license to be freaky and be different. That can slowly change the face of entertainment. You don’t have to be the typical tiny girl to be sexy.

We decided it would be cool to make a show that walked us through the last 100 years of musical history, so we start with the 1920s and take it to now and the future. We start from the very jazzy tunes and then move on to “Big Spender” and “Sweet Chariot,” and then we do a tribute to glam rock with Iggy Pop and The Mercuries and The Bowies. Sarah Llewellyn plays Dustin Diamond for that act, and working with her was a dream. I pulled it out of her. The very last song I need to honor Kraddy, who produced some of the last songs including a remix of “Big Spender” and “Enter the Labyrinth.”

SB: What was it like working with this cast?

LB: This is my favorite team ever. We all chipped in and choreographed together. I am so blessed and grateful. We love each other so much and it really shows onstage. It has been so incredible to tour with these people. We are all working way beyond the financial reward; we do it with a purpose. When everyone works together, you just want to chip in more.

Read the rest of the interview on Magnetic Magazine. And be sure to catch a Lucent Dossier performance! Their schedule is here.

To discover more distinctive culture, try Heritage | Fernet-Branca

All photos by Jorge Meza

Carly Pifer is a writer based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in publications including Brooklyn Magazine, Refinery29, and VICE Motherboard. She never misses an opportunity for a costume party and knows the best burger in New York is at a hole-in-the-wall Pakistani joint in Bushwick.


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