DuJour Navigation

Darling Debutantes

Inside choreographer Mary John Frank’s interactive dance experience, DEBUTAUNT

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

Debutantes dance at their ball

Debutantes dance at their ball, Photograph by Victoria Will

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.

Beck Hartke primps in Erin Fetherston pre DEBUTAUNT at Kings County

Beck Hartke primps in Erin Fetherston pre DEBUTAUNT at Kings County, Photograph by Kat Irlin

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.

Debutantes being presented

Debutantes being presented, Photograph by Victoria Will

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