Local flashmob The Cassettes bring a feel-good excitement to any event. Wild, vivacious and always dynamic, the crew is the brainchild of dancer and choreographer Marissa Treichel and will be performing at Earth Frequency Festival at Ivory Rock in a few weeks. But guess what? It’s a no-glitter policy at EFF? How will the Cassettes face this freaky festival challenge? Marissa gave us the lowdown.
What goes down at a Cassettes rehearsal?
During The Cassettes dance classes, there’s a lot of excitement. Every week, in every class, I’m still giddy with excitement, as are the dancers. It’s the thrill of meeting new people, learning new things, dancing of course, and also reconnecting with familiar faces and sounds. Such as Rick Astley.
There’s a lot of leaping and travelling through space, being air-born, doing silly and super sexy dance moves, and facials. As in facial expressions, such as horror, enticement, ecstasy, envy, delirium, amusement. We love comedy in The Cassettes’ dance routines, which is really us expressing genuine feelings, in a funny way. Dance tends to under-using the face, or treat it like a cherry on a cake. I figure there are 43 muscles sitting on our face for a reason.
The Cassettes is really a container for physical people to tune into and develop that expressive and daring aspect of themselves: their creativity. When you dance, your creativity is embodied and felt. Life feels instantly better. The happy neuro-chemicals flood to life. Everyone has their own inner girl band: dopamine, seratonin, endorphins and oxytocin. The Bangles or Spice Girls of the brain. Dancing in a vibrant way helps them to plug in and, well, rock.
Before performances there’s also a deep, earnest and thorough enjoyment of costumes and makeup, and constant experiments on how to create huge hair.
Where does the crew draw on their inspiration?
Jim Henson is a huge inspiration. His work is as compassionate as it is weird and funny. He’s all about being kind, having fun, being inclusive, and making hay while the sun shines in kooky, muppety ways.
Public art inspires us, small things such as artworks outside the library or the laneway murals. Visual art as well as movement and music in public spaces is so important for society. Sterile, purely functional spaces are depressing.
Eighties and contemporary music inspires us hugely. With The Cassettes’ Flashmob Dance Company shows, we research the artist and borrow from their costuming, or issues they were exploring, to create a strong theme. Such as domesticity and family, in Our House by Madness.
For dancers and dance-makers, if the music is excellent that’s all you need. That and an amazing crew of dancers of course! Lying on the floor and waiting until the music instructs you to move is a great exercise. Try doing that to Tainted Love – you can’t stay horizontal for long. I love listening to all the sections of music, the different instruments, and choreographing to those sections, to ‘make the music visible’ as Balanchine said. Kind, helpful people and in-sync choreography are the most inspiring things in life.
You have a show coming up at Earth Frequency. What are you planning on presenting?
We’ll be sharing our Commonwealth Games show, which we recently performed at Woodford Folk Festival. We’ve woven together Physical, Witness the Fitness, Moscow and Everyone’s a Winner, with lots of sporting montages and aerobic wear.
Earth Frequency is quite ephemeral and explorative, so believe it or not we’ve been described as a ‘grounding presence’ there, which cracks me up. We’d just performed Love is a Battlefield and Walk Like an Egyptian … just what was needed to help punters come back to earth and feel centred, apparently. Which is funny and flattering at the same time. I’m glad.
Earth Frequency have a No-Glitter policy? Can The Cassettes perform under such conditions?
Excellent question. We’ve begun some group therapy sessions, and I think we’re gonna be okay. We’re now deep in the thick of finding a reputable bio-glitter supplier or sponsor – any leads appreciated.
What have been the most fun gigs to date?
As with most artists, the last thing we do is always the most fun! Mandy Nolan’s 50th birthday party (you may have heard of her?) and performing on the Amphitheatre Stage at Woodford Folk Festival, for the New Years Eve countdown last month, with Bobby Alu, Darren Percival and Afro Dizzi Act. A ridiculously fun dance and music jam. That was quite huge.
We’ve loved performing or Brunswick Picture House, because it’s like the Parlour Stage at Woodford, and we suit cabaret- and comedy-style audiences. Bay FM’s 80s party at the Brewery was a hoot, loved it. Flashmobbing the Bentley Blockade. Going rogue on live Sunrise TV, including hairspraying the host’s quiff! Definitely Mullum Music Festival, and Bello Winter Music Festival: love that model of festival, breathing new life into the towns’ existing venues.
Any embarrassing stories along the way?
It was 19 November 2013. The original Cassette dance group of nine dancers, including me, were all pumped outside Civic Hall ready to flashmob Mullum Music Festival for the very first time, the crowd spilling out on opening night during the interval. We looked amazing with our huge makeup, 80s formal dresses, aerobics outfits and Madonna outfits. The structure of the choreography was inspired by Daft Punk’s Around the World film clip, hence the three different costumes, which helped to show the three different choreographies happening simultaneously throughout Celebrate. I’d invested in what I thought was a very fancy and powerful speaker for the flashmob, knowing music is a super important part of our shows, and we even practised in the space, during a thunderstorm nonetheless, the week before the festival to test the speaker. But that night, with all the people and the competing noises of food vendors, when I pressed Play I was appalled to note I could barely hear the music! The dancers and I knew there was no other option: we dug deep and sang the song, including making trumpet noises at the appropriate moments, for the entire performance of Celebrate. We’d never sung th e song together before! The audience were amazing; they didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or cheer, so many did all three. Luckily by the following day (back then we were crazy and performed multiple times on all four days of Mullum Music Fest! Now we perform on 1–2 days, usually Sat and Sun), my husband Jake and Cedar, inventor of Flow Hive, creating The Cassettes first Franken-speaker: a totally awesome portable speaker with beautiful clear and loud sound, powered by glitter, ingenuity and secret men’s business. The Cassettes now wheel around two of these beauties that wirelessly connect and create an amazing outdoor sound for our flashmobs, which is really handy when we spontaneously find a nice spot to perform.
What has been the most rewarding thing for you Marissa, setting up such a successful flashmob group?
Meeting and connecting with such an amazing cross-section of people in Byron Shire and Burleigh Heads. That people are willing and excited to come along on this emotional, glittery, galloping ride (with Darryl Braithwaite’s Horses lately) is very humbling and lovely. Having a chance to give something back to Byron, and help make it the place I would like the world to be. Harmless, loving, respectful and deeply interesting.
If people want to get involved in any of your classes, what can they do?
They can book in: www.thecassettes.com.au. Our three beginner–intermediate 80s dance classes, Mix Tapes, and the Flashmob Dance Company class is fully booked for all of term 1, 2018. Term 2 has just opened, folks can book in for that now.
We also have a few places left in our new hip-hop class on Tuesday mornings in Byron, with a hip-hop Taster Workshop this Thursday night!
Finally, I had such an amazing time at Woodford running Cassettes workshops that I’m bringing this to Byron soon: Keep your eye out for The Cassettes Horses Dance Workshop (yes, Darryl Braithwaite!) Warning, this includes a singalong.