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mas-flow
Source: Más Flow Dance Company

A young woman slow dances with a phantom in a haunted hotel. Two shy ghosts try futilely to scare away the living intruders in their home. A sinister love potion sends a honeymoon into disarray. Más Flow’s ¡Qué Horror! took its theme in every conceivable direction, attempting to balance steaminess, humor, and pain along the way.

¡Qué Horror! stood out among other dance shows for its commitment to an explicit narrative. Frequent video clips captured the often-hilarious ordeals of the company’s members exploring a haunted hotel. Whenever characters were faced with a decision, such as whether to enter a suspicious room, Bandersnatch-style choices displayed on screen encouraged lively audience participation. The dance numbers regularly responded to these scenes, telling stories rather than simply achieving a horror-themed aesthetic.

The show ran for almost two and a half hours, but the audience’s spirits stayed consistently high. While the constant transitions between dancing and videoclips at times slowed down the pace, both aspects of the performance held the audience’s attention and complemented each other.

The performance made a conscious effort toward inclusivity. The presence of same-sex dance partners onstage casually rebuked heteronormativity. During intermission, the entire audience was invited onstage to move to the music. Regardless of able-bodiedness, everyone was able to mingle in the communal space. This was a more accessible form of audience participation than inviting only a few brave souls onstage.

The show’s impact on the audience proved more complicated in a section of the show exploring different forms of domestic abuse, both physical and emotional. A series of short videos featured members of Más Flow enacting scenes of relationship violence. The actors from these clips then emerged onstage for a dance ending with survivors walking away from their abusers. The piece was realistic, beautifully choreographed, and affirmative. The content warning preceding the videos and dance was thoughtful and thorough, including resources for those impacted by domestic abuse.

It is easy to assume that providing a trigger warning is enough to ensure the comfort of all audience members. Yet some in the audience who found this content triggering felt “trapped,” to use the word of one anonymous poster in the Facebook group Tiger Confessions. For a person, to get up and exit a suddenly emotionally unsafe space would signal to everyone in Frist Film/Performance Theatre their painful personal history with domestic abuse.

Más Flow had the best intentions and succeeded in bringing attention to an issue seldom addressed on college campuses. Yet it did not do enough to protect those actually impacted by abuse. A content warning in the show’s marketing might have prevented this issue, although it may have dampened turnout. Perhaps a better format would be to perform this piece after intermission, with a content warning prior to the break so that audience members could leave unnoticed.

With ¡Qué Horror!, Más Flow danced a line between celebration and contemplation. Both its successes and shortcomings push campus culture to engage with issues such as domestic abuse in ways that go beyond the theoretical to consider personal impact.

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