Stage lights bathed the three hard, athletic and nearly naked bodies in an electric glow as they posed in a bathtub at the center of the dance floor. Hundreds of flamboyantly costumed guests pushed in close, but not too close, since they didn’t know exactly what was coming next. Out came a chair, a ladle, and a cauldron of a gooey, thick chocolate brown liquid. The audience knew that something very tasty was about to happen.
Rub-a-dub-dub, the three bodies in the tub were oh so close. The woman wore only pasties and barely-perceptible skin-tone bottoms, and the two men wore only vintage swim trunks. Two other Lucent performers got the party going by drizzling the chocolaty syrup all over them. They began to move in sync with the energy of the crowd and to the rhythm of the music, rubbing the chocolate concoction all over each other. Hands went everywhere, slowly and sensually bathing each body. Then came the whipped cream. It was the biggest, sexiest chocolate Sundae ever. The crowed buzzed, and everyone wanted to be in that tub.
This was Lucent Dossier at its best; sexy, sticky and surprising. If you haven’t heard of Lucent Dossier, it is a cutting-edge performance troupe that has gained a reputation for creating envelope-pushing, mind expanding performance experiences for their audiences. They mix creative dance, original music and the most unique post-apocalyptic, neo-tribal, steampunky costumes and makeup you have ever seen, into a wild night of audience participation theater. Lucent Dossier came to life in Los Angeles and has taken up residence at an out-of-the-way converted factory where this bathtub and chocolate scene unfolded in early March.
I’m an unabashed fan of Lucent Dossier. They have a way of making me feel like I’m at home, where I can be my wildest, weirdest self and no one will care because, well, because we’re family. Being part of the Lucent Dossier family is a little like living in an asylum for the creatively insane where the patients just found the secret stash of magic mushrooms and decided to dress up like circus players wearing costumes pieced together from the remains of a bombed-out department store. Everything is beyond stylish, perfectly tattered, and no one believes in matching. Doesn’t that sound like home to you?
“I wanted to create a beautiful lunacy,” said Dream Rockwell, the creator of Lucent Dossier, during our recent lunch interview in Larchmont Village. “I think people are way weirder than we think we are, way more unique than we are led to believe. I thought if I could let people experience that, it would make them happier.”
More than 800 people got to experience some of that unique weirdness in early March during two nights of “private parties” at Lucent’s downtown warehouse space. It was just the Lucent Dossier family getting together to share some quality time. In these days of Cirque du Soleil, which can sell out show after show in big rooms, 800 people may not seem like much, but Lucent fans are in fact fanatic. This is a hard core group who relish each new show and who often spend days, or even weeks, putting together their own costumes and outfits for the occasion.
On this occasion, the warehouse was decorated on the ground floor with comfortably stuffed couches and chairs around a dance floor, while the upstairs was dressed up like a little bordello. There was a little kitchen in one corner where they served fries, popcorn and other snacks, and in another corner was a “cuddle” room with pillows spread about on the floor. Just outside the cuddle room was an airbrush artist painting faces. Around every corner is something you didn’t quite expect to see.
One guest seeing Lucent Dossier for the first time called the performers “”tireless” because the show went on until nearly 4 a.m. with a new set starting every 15 or 20 minutes. You had the dancers, the aerialists, the Bordello Lap Dancers, and of course, the chocolate Sundae.
“It was a surreal experience,” said Michelle Socci, a west LA psychotherapist. “I felt like I was part voyeur and part participant. They really bring you into their world, but they never let you forget whose house it is. I loved it.”
Lucent Dossier was created in 2004 by Rockwell, a Canadian transplant, by way of New York City. Trained in commedia del’arte, acting, singing dance, improv and anything else she could find in New York back in the late 90’s, she dreamed of creating something that could use all her skills and she thought Los Angeles was the place to do that.
Not long after reaching Los Angeles, Rockwell found her way to Burning Man, the infamous art and culture festival that takes place in the Nevada desert every August. Two of the “principles” of Burning Man are radical inclusion and participation. You can plainly see those values at work in Lucent Dossier’s shows.
It was about 10 years ago and Rockwell was wandering about the vast dry lake bed known to Burners as “the playa,” when she met a mysterious man who told her that she needed to focus her talent and energy in one direction if she wanted people to take her seriously. She took the advice seriously and began to focus all her skill and talent toward the vision that eventually became Lucent Dossier a few years later.
Always fond of the old school circus, Rockwell wanted to use that format but add her own artistic style so she went to work as a production coordinator with a group called the Dream Circus, one of the first groups to bring the feel of Burning Man back to Los Angeles. She learned how to manage the elements of a circus and in the process she met some of the performers who would be the first members of the Lucent Dossier troupe, Roger Fojas, Erin Maxick and Dayna Riesgo.
The first time I saw Lucent Dossier, they were performing at the Edison, the trendy retro turn of the century powerhouse (literally) turned period lounge in downtown Los Angeles. It was New Year’s Eve, 2007 and Lucent was paired up with Steampunk ass-kickers Abney Park. Each group had a retinue of loyal fans, and they all dressed to the nines in period steam punk out fits or wildly creative Lucent ware, as I like to call it. “It was a surreal evening,” said Abney Park leader Captain Robert when I spoke to him about that night.
Indeed, it was like nothing I had ever seen. Descending the stairs into the basement lounge that night we saw these wildly dressed people and didn’t realize they were part of the show at first. They were frolicking among the guests, being playful and cozying up to everyone. Around one corner, there was a man with a wild mustache and a big hat washing the feet of several blissed-out guests. That was renowned American folk artist Brent “Shrine” Spears. In a side room, long-time Lucent-ess Erin Maxick was holding forth as the Post Mistress of the Post Portal Post Office, an inter-dimensional way station for lost letters. Her guests sit down and she searches her file of lost letters to find that long lost message they had been waiting for.
One new Lucent fan who I met at the private party is Svjetlana Jaklenec, a writer and director from Canada, who had a friend dancing in the show. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” she told me half way part way through the evening. “They really create their own little world and they let you come in and share it.”
As much as the crew and the guests seem to love the private warehouse shows, setting up the shows are problematic because the city of Los Angeles seems to want to make life particularly hard on them. Getting the permits needed to host these private parties is an arduous, frustrating and very expensive process. It would be smart for the ruling class at City Hall to find ways to encourage entrepreneurs Dream Rockwell by making the process easier. The Lucent Dossier crowd couldn’t be much mellower, so requiring armed guards, for example, seems like serious overkill.
Assuming the roadblocks aren’t insurmountable, there seems to be an audience hungry for this kind of entertainment. “It seems people are looking for a different kind of entertainment,” said Rockwell. “When we did our show at the Edison we had 750 to 1,000 people show up for our average Wednesday night show.”
Given the demand, Dream is still dreaming big. She has plans for more private parties (The next are May 17 and 18) new collaborations, shows at Coachella, Lightening in a Bottle, Burning Man and other festivals this year. She also wants to create a new home for Lucent.
“We want to move to the next level,” she said. “We want to dream bigger.” Part of that dream includes creating an event that will take place inside a dome. The inside wall of the dome would be used as a cinesphere-style, interactive projection screen and there would be an aerial water element and multiple stages in and around the crow to create an immersive experience.
“We want to create a place that doesn’t exist right now,” Rockwell said. She has looked around Los Angeles but hasn’t found the kind of “home” for Lucent that she’s looking for. So it might be the dome concept, or another club like the Edison, or maybe even the warehouse.
For now, Dream Rockwell and her Lucent family will bring their unique version of weirdness with them wherever they perform. And that is a good thing because LA can certainly use a little more weirdness.
If you want to discover the Lucent Dossier Experience for yourself, click here.
Written by Rick Ruiz
Rick Ruiz is a writer, former journalist and owner of Zenvironment, a Conscious Communications consulting firm. A native Southern Californian and graduate of Cal State Fullerton, he now lives in Santa Monica. He has studied and written about martial arts, spirituality, personal growth and the southern California lifestyle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.