Ariana and the Rose Prep for Immersive House of Yes Series With Glitter, Alien Dancers & More
There's a storied history of concert-dance happenings, particularly in New York City, but it's a tough trick to pull off an event that transitions from DJ-helmed dance party to a full-band concert.
Well, synthpop purveyors Ariana and the Rose rose to the occasion last fall at Brooklyn's reliably excellent House of Yes, debuting a party called light + space, a seamless integration of live band, performance art and dance party. Dancers looking like otherworldly art school dropouts flitted among the crowd, providing a visual consistency as the space morphed from dancefloor to performance space and back again. With attendees treated more like participants than spectators, the movement of the crowd was constant in a way you don't find at most concerts.
That party returns to House of Yes this April 26 (with legendary DJ Tommie Sunshine on the boards), May 24 and June 14 with "The Trilogy," three more interstellar dance happenings aided by copious amounts of on-site glitter and face paint. Ahead of it, Billboard spoke to Ariana DiLorenzo about creating an event people can put their trust in and why music can't afford to be "frivolous" even when it comes to the dancefloor these days.
So prepping for this, are you looking back on the inaugural light + space and thinking, "that didn't work so well" or "we'll need to tweak this?"
There's always a million thing where you're like that worked, that didn't work, but the main difference is we're going to perfect the immersive performers. I wanted it to feel like a crew, for people to feel this unification. Like, "okay these aliens hang out together outside of light + space." That's something we worked on. So when the show starts you feel like you've gotten to meet them, and when they're onstage together you're like, "okay, they're all from the same planet." Every time we do it, there's little things we're looking to tweak. And the first time around you're looking to see how the audience reacts to stuff. You just don't know.
New York crowds can be tough to please, but they're also up for a lot of things.
Everybody that came to that event was so onboard for jumping in and that speaks to a House of Yes crowd. People are so open to being part of something when they don't totally know what is going to happen; they want to be pushed. The idea of things being predictable isn't as fun for audiences anymore.
When I attended, I really expected the crowd to come to a standstill when it switched into concert mode, but I was impressed how seamlessly it transitioned.
That's the worst, when you go to concerts and everyone takes 30 minutes to change over. It kills the vibe. That was a huge goal for the event – no matter what we do, everything is seamless. It's an event start to finish, from the time you step in. Ultimately it's a party, and a party never stops. I don't want the audience to watch us line check a guitar, that's not otherworldly. It's a non-human environment. That's a tool to push an audience to let themselves feel free: get covered in glitter, get drunk, have fun. When you put a pause in that, it reminds everyone, "oh we're in a venue." So I don't want people to think about the running of it.
What about you? Can you do that and actually let go?
I don't think I'll ever be able to chill in the show. I produce the event and direct the event, but then I have to take that hat off and be a performer. Ultimately at the end of the day, because it's a big warm inviting space, and the audience never knows what goes wrong. It's about creating a consistently swirling environment where everything builds on itself.
By the time I got on stage last time, I felt I could release then while I was singing. It felt so good to get there and see everyone decked out and covered in glitter. If you go to work on Friday with glitter coming out of your pores, then we did our job.
Was it hard singing live while moving around in an active space?
Yeah, of course, but also, that's the job, so you gotta do it, that's what it's about. I sing everything live, I wouldn't put anything on track, so you just practice. As a performer I think it's my job to go as hard as the dancers. If you put your name at the top of an event, you gotta give it to everybody.
How is it picking the dancers?
We had an audition, this time we added some different people to the cast. I always think these dancers are so incredibly talented, and I love working with them because it pushes the show in a way that pulls from performance art and contemporary dance. It's not just a concert. I love to pick dancers who move in a way that's alien and suits the style of the show and then give them license to find their own movement. Especially because in the first hour of the show it's on them -- they create these characters, they interact with the audience.
So you have three shows, and the final one is Pride-themed. How different will they be?
For me the goal of light + space is collaborating, and using the show to spotlight and partner with other artists. Visuals artists, DJs… the blueprint of the show leaves space for that. There's a skeleton of the show that's the same, like having the glitter bar, and I'm interesting in VR and motion sensor technology, so we'll always have that, and Ariana and the Rose will always be the house band, and we'll always have DJs, and then some surprises we're working on. I want the show to feel like a home to people -- that kind of culture, people having a trust in a party or event, I think that's coming back, especially in Brooklyn.
What about your music?
I'm working on a whole bunch of new music, it's been a year since we put out Retrograde. For me my priority is doing this Trilogy, but my hope is to put new music out by the end of this year.
Will it continue with what you did on Retrograde?
It's definitely an elaboration on Retrograde. I feel when I wrote Retrograde I was in this super moody, self-reflective place, so all the songs were like that, even though they're electronic. Every time I went into the studio, with the way the world is right now, I was like, "ugh, I just want to write something that lets you scream." Lets you rip your clothes off and dance. That was my feeling – this music that makes you feel free. That's what I want to listen to. Everything feels so heavy all the time. And the music itself isn't frivolous -- I like to write about real things, but that intersection between writing something that hits your heart but also lifts you is really what this music is about. I think catharsis is where everyone is at. With artists right now in all spaces, not just music, people want to escape, but no one wants to ignore anything. Making frivolous music I don't think will resonate anymore. There's too much going on for artist to say, "we'll forget about it." I don't think people want to forget about it, but they might want to set it down a little while. I want to make music that allows people to deal with what they're going through and have some sort of support.