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A dance troupe looks at how service workers like flight attendants manage emotionally.

"The notion that a part of us can be controlled to make us more profitable really stuck with me."



In 2010, a JetBlue flight attendant who had argued with a passenger got fed up with his job, grabbed a beer, deployed the emergency slide and exited the plane. This well-publicized incident illustrated what a social psychologist might term a "deviation from structure." The kind of emotional structure flight attendants and other service workers adopt for the sake of commerce is among the themes explored in idiosynCrazy Productions' Private Places.

Choreographed by the Philadelphia-based troupe's founder, Jumatatu Poe, the work uses the iconography of flight attendants, and the underlying mechanics of being a service worker, to explore grander notions of order and structure in our lives. The Pittsburgh premiere is Dec. 14 and 15, at The Alloy Studios by the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.

The 70-minute work containing nudity and sexually explicit content takes place on a narrow set made to resemble the inside of a jetliner. The audience of only 60 per show will be seated in various configurations that will shift throughout the performance.  

In developing the work this past June, during a residency at the Kelly-Strayhorn, Poe participated in a workshop with flight attendants and was struck by how emotional management was a significant part of their job.

"The notion that a part of us can be controlled to make us more profitable really stuck with me," says Poe.

The movement for the work utilizes several dance styles, including the rapid-fire and risqué hip-hop form known as J-setting (a.k.a. bucking). But Poe says that the moves will be delivered in an improvisational sequence, with the dancers in part taking cues from the audience as to how to proceed. 

Private Places uses little music, says Poe. Instead, the sound of a metronome acts as its soundtrack and a catalyst for another of the work's themes: time as a system of order. 

The work also features segments on multitasking, the conflation of our public and private identities, and how we dole out attention in our lives. Its eight dancers, including Poe and Point Park alumna Shannon Murphy, will also employ various props, vocalizations and video projections.   

"As a company we are very experimental at heart," says Poe. "The extent [to which] we will deal with a movement vocabulary traditionally is very limited."

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