The question, “Where did you come out?” used to have quite a different meaning in this country, especially among certain socioregional groups. For Mary John Frank, New York-based choreographer and director, the answer is Houston, Texas, and the experience of her deb ball was the genesis for her latest work: DEBUTAUNT.
The immersive dance show premiered last week at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn. For three nights guests were invited to sip cocktails, take in the beautiful setting and bear witness to five young ladies transition to adulthood. At the outset, the debutantes were anxiously preparing to achieve perfection on the “most important nights of their lives.” As the evening rolled on, guests watched the well-heeled coterie charmingly devolve into rebellion and competition.
Frank smartly used the age-old ceremony as a context to examine contemporary gender roles and what it means to come of age in our modern society, all while throwing one heck of a party. From the costumes donated by Erin Fetherston and Stone Fox Bride to the bourbon-infused dancing, every detail was a delight.
Below, check out the video that Frank created as part of a corresponding series of mini-films that were projected on the dance hall’s walls. It represents the extreme attention to detail, etiquette and the emphasis on perfection passed down from generations of women to their daughters and granddaughters. The films explore what happens when smiling formalities and pleasantries are taken too far. Think: Emily Post meets Lord of the Flies.
Main photograph by Kat Irlin, Film directed by Mary John Frank