If you haven’t seen the interactive spectacle Fuerza Bruta in action yet, it can be hard to describe. It’s sort of like dreaming while you’re awake. The show is closing permanently on January 5th, so we took our awesome photographer Ben Helmer in tow so we could attempt to capture the show’s penchant for water dancing, trapeze art and frequent use of confetti. Fuerza Bruta has been playing in the Daryl Roth Theater since 2007, an noble piece of architecture that served as the Union Square Savings Bank until 1996.
Like most dreams, this experience start simply and mysteriously: you are standing in a room filled with strangers as a man in all white is running down a runway. As dreams do, the action becomes more complex as time progresses. The music becomes louder and actors start screaming incomprehensible words into the audience. However, the actors also smile at you genuinely, leaving you wondering what exactly they want.
Dreams also have an ability to marry the real and surreal. Fuerza Bruta does this by bringing the actors very close to the audience in a surreal setting. At one point, water dancers are suspended in a see-through pool just a few inches above the audience, enough to touch hands. The water dancers are then lifted up to the top of the high ceiling, and create formations combined with strobe lights.
Instead of sitting as a typical audience does, the Fuerza Bruta audience stands in a high ceilinged black room, and watches as actors hang from the ceiling and run through walls. The show is directed by Diqui James, an Argentinian director who has also co-founded the similar show De La Guarda in 1993.
Some critics have said that Fuerza Bruta lacks sophistication. But does everything have to have a sophisticated take-away message? The point of Fuerza Bruta is to shock and mystify its audience, and it executes this point beautifully. But just a warning: there’s fake rain at the end…you are encouraged to dance in it.
For further reading, check out these old banks in NYC that now serve different purposes. For more on Union Square, read about the history of Union Square Park, and find out what those numbers above Nordstrom Rack really mean.