You Might Get A Stranger Sitting In Your Lap At This Exhibition

Trajal Harrell: Hoochie Koochie, Barbican ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 10 months ago

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You Might Get A Stranger Sitting In Your Lap At This Exhibition Trajal Harrell: Hoochie Koochie, Barbican 4
Various style of dance will be taking place across the gallery. © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

A man walks up to us and sits in our lap, before trying on our glasses. He then proceeds to braid the hair of the woman next to us before moving on to lie across three laps of the people opposite. All of us are trying to stifle laughs, and the performer seems to be having a great time too.

This is a work called Show Pony and it's the brainchild of choreographer and dancer Trajal Harrell. It's one of 14 performances taking place across Barbican Art Gallery in a fun and experimental exhibition.

Don't take a seat unless you want someone to sit in your lap, and maybe hug you. © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

If the thought of interaction makes you break out in a cold sweat, don't worry, it's completely voluntary. Anyone who doesn't want to get involved can just stand back and watch the awkwardness unfold.

In a different performance we step into a darkened cube and watch a woman disrobe and fold her bathing suit ritualistically — thus focusing our attention on her clothing rather than her nudity, in a beautiful performance that inverts expectations.

All sorts of performances take place including those using set stages. © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

There are exciting dances full of rhythmic moves, very slow performances where movement is barely perceptible, and set pieces where dancers gyrate around one another. Walking through this exhibition showcases a broad spectrum of contemporary dance and it's a great window into a world for anyone not familiar with it. The scheduling means it's easy to segue from one performance straight into another.

Here's Trajal Harrell modelling a dress. Watch him eat cereal as part of this performance too. © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

To prevent the feeling of being trapped watching one performance, there are always other works happening simultaneously. Some only last 10 minutes so it's easy to dip in and out of watching various dances.

It's a fun experience — bringing the audience so close to the dancers feels much more intimate than if they were on stage. We're not particular dance fans, and yet this immersive show won us over.

© Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

Trajal Harell: Hoochie Koochie is on at Barbican Art Gallery until 13 August. Tickets are £12.50 and the exhibition is on Thursdays to Sundays.

Last Updated 21 July 2017