I get the feeling William-Adolphe Bouguereau would be a fan of HotHouse Gruv.
HotHouse Gruv, a dance company, performed at the members opening reception, which was held June 21st, for “Bouguereau & America.” The exhibit of works by the French academic painter now is on view at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
The subjects in Bouguereau’s sensual paintings, which often were set in idyllic glades with cupids and beautiful human beings, showed a lot of skin.
Dressed as satyrs and fauns, the HotHouse Gruv dancers resembled a Bouguereau painting as they portrayed a bacchanal.
Brooks representatives reached out to Cskik Gruv to feature his HotHouse Gruv dancers at the party. “HotHouse Gruv is a collaboration of artists,” Gruv says. “So, we have hip-hop dancers, classically trained dancers. All-style dancers. Bebop dancers, b-boy dancers. There was a deejay there. There are rap artists, vocal artists, and then there are graphic artists. It’s made up of all these people that are loosely connected, but very intertwined. We use each other to create what we do.”
Gruv told the Brooks people that the bodies of the dancers are painted by body paint artists. He told them, “This is very explosive, energetic. Are you sure you want to do this?”
He got the green light, but, Gruv says, “There were a couple of stipulations. We couldn’t have nipples [showing]. Normally, our body paint looks like clothing on top of a natural body. Then I said, ‘Well, we’ll do pasties.’”
The Brooks people weren’t sure about pasties on the dancers, either, Gruv says. Then, he says, “Word came down from the powers that be that they need to have something on top. At least the ladies did.”
For inspiration, Gruv used a Bouguereau painting that shows a drunk Bacchus, the god of wine. “Everybody is dancing and they have tambourines, and wine was there,” he says.
As for the dancers, he says, “I thought we would reach out to artists who are a little bit more acrobatic to be a part of the event, too.”
Music for the performance included Janet Jackson's “Throb”— “a very erotic tune. And that laid the groundwork for the touchy feely orgy-type performance where they were on the floor.”
Videos of the performance were taken. “Sometimes I look at it and I blush,” Gruv says. “Oh, my God, we did this? It’s funny. When we were rehearsing I was like, ‘OK. Now, guys, we’re going to simulate an orgy.’ Everybody was, ‘OK. OK.’ I placed people and I was like, ‘Let’s just see where you go.’ And they started.”
Finally, Gruv says he told the dancers, “OK. That’s enough.’ I think it even stretched me.”
Describing the final product, Gruv says, “This is a little bit over the top, and I want you to feel this is just at the edge of raunchy and trashy. But it also has a little bit more culture.”
The performance was a hit. From where I stood, the audience appeared to love it. The applause was loud and long.
And, she says, the event attracted “a lot of out-of-towners this year.”
Temmora Levy (a.k.a. Queen T), who grew up in South Memphis, also attended the festival with her daughter Meisha’s pop group, KARMA. Footage was shot at the festival for Levy’s Lifetime TV Network reality show, Ms. T’s Music Factory, Franklin says.
“Juneteenth is not only celebrated here,” Franklin says. “It’s celebrated all around the world. The slaves in Galveston, Texas, had no idea they were free. It was June 19th, 1865, when the slaves found out they were free.”
This was the sixth year the Memphis festival was held in Robert Church Park. The 27-year-old event formerly was known as the Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival. It began in Memphis at St. Paul Douglas Baptist Church on Brookins and then moved to Douglass Park, Franklin says.
“When it was in North Memphis, I felt like it was a Douglass community festival,” she says. “Moving it downtown, I brought every culture and race together. And it was for Memphis, not one isolated community. It’s important we work together. Memphis isn’t one color. We’re all colors. I want everybody to celebrate Juneteenth. It’s not just one culture and one neighborhood.”
To wind down the day, between 150 and 200 people attended Wine Down for BizTown, a Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South fundraiser. It was held June 14th at the nonprofit’s headquarters at 307 Madison.
The event featured a blind wine tasting and a silent auction. Food was catered by Coletta’s. DJ A. O. provided the music.