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BPXXXI :: Revolutionary Cell Block Tango
New York City
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
March 1, 2010 Bookmark and Share
GOLPE! reads one headline. There’s anger in the air. Revolutionary fervor. Another headline reads: GOVERNMENT DEMOLISHED. NEW BLACK PARTY APPEARS.

Taken from the Spanish term “golpe de estado,” golpe means coup d’etat: the sudden overthrowing of a state government—which means that, once again, this year’s Black Party invite has caught the American zeitgeist and the revolutionary zeal in the vox populi with uncanny prescience. The Great Recession, with its discomfiting parallels to the final years of the Weimar Republic, has unleashed the demons of debauchery and decadence, with a burning desire for a totally new order—and that’s where Black Party XXXI commences.

With a twelve-page backstory narrative, this year’s Black Party celebration of the arrival of the vernal equinox reads like an amalgam of Kiss of the Spider Woman meets “Cell Block Tango” in 1932 Buenos Aires, where a militaristic regime with a penchant for roses and rough tango has seized control. Matadors and masochists commingle with sadists and Santeria. It’s the black of night and totalitarianism—and the red of blood, roses, martyrdom—and saints.

Ever since Bruce Mailman opened the original Saint in 1980, and celebrated the vernal equinox with a two-night Black Party (hence the reason for the 31st Black Party thirty years later), men from around the world have congregated in New York City to celebrate an annual rite that echoes the ancient Druids. With the enforced closing of the Saint in 1988 (due to the burgeoning AIDS crisis and city crackdowns), and the untimely passing of Mailman in 1994, the Black Party, for the past nineteen years, has been helmed by Stephen Pevner, the extraordinary visionary behind the Saint-at-Large, and his exceedingly gifted creative staff, all of whom work to explore the darker side of Dionysian, sybaritic revels. Recent incarnations of this blackest of nights have included such all-encompassing themes as Schwarzwald, the Black Forest, Lucha Libre, free wrestling, and the underside of NASCAR—as well as The Dangerous Black Party For Boys, all of them immersing patrons in theatrical environments that withstand comparison to Vegas, Cirque de Soleil, and les egouts de Paris.

This year, the Saint-at-Large has expanded their fetishistic menu to include a Friday night party at Club Rebel, featuring the Hookies, the 2010 Escort Awards presented by, and hosted by Raven O.—as well as a Saturday afternoon event at Roseland, called BPX (or Black Party Expo), proceeds of which benefit the LGBT Center. Billed as a behind the scenes glimpse of the world’s most notorious gay dance party, BPX pulls back the black leather curtain for an insider’s view of the Black Party that promises to thrill and titillate attendees with jaw-dropping, eye-popping demonstrations, musical performances, and adult entertainment. Consider it a sort of backstage, pre-party tour of some of the more sordid doings that go into the preparations for Black Party.

And yet, in spite of what happens before and after, no one can deny that it’s Saturday night at Roseland that makes the boys pant. Few circuit parties inspire such anticipation as Black Party’s main event on Saturday night at Roseland and rumors are rife long before the February announcement of the party’s deejays. Facebook, Twitter, and message boards flash with the news when the announcement is made—and this year, the drum rolls could hardly have been more appropriate, given the anointing of tribal beatmeister DJ Paulo as Black Party XXXI’s headliner, flanked by international stars DJ Hector Fonseca and DJ Ana Paula. Almost immediately, there was near-universal consensus that this year’s slate of deejays might well be the most perfect triumvirate to play Black Party in recent memory.

The man behind the Lord of the Drums tribal parties in Los Angeles, Paulo has played Black Party twice before—and, with his signature blend of progressive percussive, he’s long been a favorite of the 5,000-member tribe that gathers at Roseland. Fresh from his recent triumphs at Revolution in Rio, and the closing night event at Sydney Mardi Gras, Paulo promises to deliver the sexy, hard beats that make supplicants out of dominatrices.

Similarly, both Hector Fonseca and Ana Paula have been burning up the floors with recent gigs at
Winter Party, Circuit Festival in Barcelona, and clubs throughout Europe and South America. Fonseca’s “electribal” sound, a sexy mash-up of electro, vocal, and tribal has earned him residencies in Montreal, Miami, and Los Angeles, while Ana Paula worked the Brazilian big boys with her five-year residency at the fabled X-Demente parties in Rio.

Over the past twenty years, the Saint-at-Large has earned a worldwide reputation for superlative production values—and once again, the inimitable lighting wizard, Guy Smith, has been entrusted to create a smoldering atmosphere evoking les films noir of Spanish cinema, marked by decay, desire, and ruthless passion, while this year’s décor is by theatrical set designer Adam Koch, taking its cues from shady characters, prison guards, bondage, and the web that binds together the Saint-at-Large tribe.

And in keeping with innovative changes, Black Party XXXI promises to bring young revolutionaries to the floor early, thanks to an admissions policy that rewards those who 26-years-and-under for arriving in their cell blocks before midnight.

Given Pevner’s extensive background in theatre production, it’s no surprise that the Black Party is structured like a three-act drama, complete with narrative arc, director, lighting and costume design, and a troupe of performance artists whose esoteric skills keep people talking for years. With this much talent and dedication, it’s small wonder that 5,000 Black Party devotées return to Roseland’s floor every year.

This year—expect a revolution.
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