The Power of a Mattress
Who ever dreamed that a used mattress could provide so much fun and help propel a dance career?
During a SDSB (SUMMERDANCE Santa Barbara) residency here circa 2003, Larry Keigwin and Nicole Wolcott created a duet with a used mattress as a prop. They became intrigued with the mattress idea months earlier while exploring movement ideas in Larry’s apartment. After a visit to local thrift stores, a mattress became the critical prop for a non verbal exploration about love, desire and loss. To the background of a Cecelia Bartoli aria, Larry and Nicole, dressed only in tighty -whities, managed to create a simultaneously hilarious and poignant duet on off around and between the mattress. I didn’t ask many questions about the origins of the mattress.
The mattress dance made its first appearance at a wild SUMMERDANCE fund-raising party in May, poolside on a beautiful Montecito estate. The dance, performed by Larry and Nicole clad only in tidy-whities, was a part of the evening’s entertainment which included synchronized swimmers, dancing dogs, Jeff Bridges as our guest dj and dozens of inebriated guests dancing around an old oak tree to a dance the Bridges himself choreographed to the words of one of his songs! A night for the history books. We made no money, but we are still talking about the party. The mattress fit perfectly into the zany mix.
It became a popular tradition of SDSB to have a free for all early evening performance in the Mission rose garden at the conclusion of the festival in late July. A few hundred people attended, many families included, to watch our dancers frolic and perform among the roses. Usually, at that point of the festival, I was so exhausted that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the choices the artists would make for their brief performances. When the mattress made its appearance I was a bit stunned, but when I saw that Larry and Nicole were performing their possibly x-rated dance in their skimpy tidy-whities for this family friendly crowd, the smile froze on my face. Amazingly enough, not one person commented to me about the appropriateness of that work for the assembled audience. Everyone seemed pretty pleased. With one lone exception. A man in a pick up truck objected strongly as he drove by during the performance and hollered “Why don’t you get yourself a motel??!!”
Following its Santa Barbara debut, the Mattress Dance expanded and evolved into a very sophisticated Mattress Suite that has been performed before thousands of people. It has become one of Larry’s signature works.