New York is the land of infinite options: whether it’s an ostrich filet, a 3am palm reading, an impromptu spanking, or a baggie full of, well, anything, we’re all about esoteric amusements. Unless, you want to dance below midtown. Then you’re sort of screwed.
Or not? Staged every third Thursday, CHERYL is a new dance party thrown by a quasi-Dada-inspired cabal of four in Brooklyn. Calling themselves “the Cheryls” (as if co-opted from The Complete Book of Baby Names), the group says the party, “explores the themes of mortality, mania, the feline-human connection, the limits of shoulders, the flammability of dollar-store hair extensions, and the staining power of fake blood.” Sounds exciting, but is it? After the jump, we investigate.
CHERYL began in July 2008, when four Brooklynites (three females and one male), disheartened by “the serious lack of awesome nightlife… in Park Slope,” approached the Royale – a charming dive in South Park Slope. “We’ve grown exponentially since then,” one Cheryl told me over email, recently upgrading from the Royale to the Bell House in Gowanus.
At 11:15pm, on May 13th, I’m milling at the bar with some friends. Three ladies spiritedly promenade across the floor, all wearing feline masks adorned with items from my grandmother’s vanity. They are luring patrons to join them, and dozens of others (many donning some of their own most prized thrift-store findings), in the back room, where enthusiasts of both the dance and miscellaneous variety are bouncing and sweating and shouting. Modulating lights pulsate across the floor, suggesting a saucer looming overhead. DJs Sintalentos and Owlpuffs spin electropop, disco, new wave, and old school hip-hop.
An hour or so in, the Pointer Sisters’ “Jump (For My Love)” starts playing and, I’m not ashamed to admit, my feet rise a few inches. A series of short films are playing on a large screen, center stage, on a loop, but like videos of fat kids laughing uncontrollably, I have to watch more than once.
Each dance party has a theme, and the Cheryls accompany every party with a video to showcase, in a manner of speaking, just what it holds in store. In the past they have choreographed a frantic run through Park Slope and robotted atop an arctic slope; they’ve cried blood in the boudoir and mushroomed to beats of tantric bliss in the forest. These are the videos that run repeatedly on stage. Their finest to date is the “Spirit Quest” – the theme in question on May 13th – in which the felined Cheryls perform a séance amidst giant dreamcatchers.
When I asked the Cheryls about the origins of the feline masks, one responded saying, “it was sort of an accident – as we were developing the dance party, we had one lying around, and started using it. And somehow, it worked!”
That may be impromptu, but nothing else about CHERYL feels accidental. Every moment of “Spirit Quest” felt deliberate and inviting, delivering on the promise of, “…over-the-top happenings involving outrageous costumes, exuberant dance moves, and participatory dance floor suicide.”
Like the very name – which has no history predating the 20th century — CHERYL is something of a history-less slate on which four creative minds have built an original. Its small cult following grows ever-larger, and, in this city of infinite options, CHERYL now tops my list of reasons to forego watching a Simpsons repeat, put some damn pants on, huff it to Gowanus, and (re)discover the staining power of fake blood.