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Dances of Vice

The group hosts enchanted evenings that are equal parts party, performance and fantasy

by Natasha Tauber
on 06 February 2014

Whether performing at the annual invocation of Edward Gorey on Halloween, creating a '60s spy film (complete with a femme fatale) or working with the Japan Society to evoke the otherworldly quality of primal futurism by light sculptor Mariko Mori, NYC collective Dances of Vice boldly conjures new dimensions for social occasions. The interpretive group has garnered widespread respect for bringing New York's nightlife entertainment down from the stage and into the audience, for everyone to take part.

CH recently joined Dances of Vice creative director Shien Lee for a walk through of The Down Town Association (DTA)—a member-owned Victorian club and site for their upcoming event—to find out more about her inspiration for creating alternate realms, specifically designed for interactive parties.


Lee is inspired by all kinds of vintage culture, but first and foremost is creating a dynamic rapport between performers and participants. It's this interaction that is intrinsic to the success of Dances of Vice events. "All of the most important people in my life, I've met through parties," she says.

Rather than just seeing it as networking, Lee believes that nightlife in general is a collaborative illusion; "a world we all create together." Her specialty is in manifesting the magical but ephemeral, "There is a unique power in the production of fantasy... an atmosphere of unique beauty and transience. Art that lives and dies on the same day. Art you only have one chance to experience."


For this coming Valentine's Day, Lee sketched out a party that promises masks, roses, Victorian parlor games and a tinge of 1930s Paris. Greeted at the entrance with images of vintage Parisian street signs, guests will be drawn into the space by the music from Carte Blanche. The six-piece ensemble features vocalists in '30s sheaths and musicians sporting Panama hats, who deliver a continent-crossing mix of jazz standards. The corps of Company XIV—best known for the Nutcracker Rouge, a fugue of ballet, stylized baroque dance and burlesque—will be seeded in vignettes throughout the venue. Improvised love stories are cast with a focus on each performer's unique physical talents.


La Vie Parisienne: Bal Masqué de la St-Valentin 2014 will take place in NYC on 14 February 2014 at 8PM. Tickets start at $35 and are available online.

Lead image courtesy of Mark Shelby Perry, Dances of Vice images courtesy of Jane Kratochvil, final image by Don Spiro

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