This year, Lucent Dossier celebrates its 10th anniversary at Coachella. Honestly, we couldn't imagine a festival season without them. For the uninitiated, this traveling tribe of dancers, aerialists, acrobats, clowns and carnival freaks are the heart of the Do Lab, one of the Indio festival's many staples. And tonight, you can see them have their most triumphant Coachella moment to date as the Gobi tent's closing act at 11:10 p.m.
Created by stage director/performer/mother hen/goddess Dream Rockwell, Lucent's renowned stage show is made up of some pretty undeniable talent. But if you think that these performers popped out of the womb knowing how to twirl fire and mesmerize a crowd then guess again. On Friday night, we snuck backstage to get an inside look at the craziness of Lucent's first show of the weekend. Behind the stage, acrobats were busy limbering up, and half-naked performers were getting painted head to toe and fastening their wigs as they readied their arsenal of theatrical weapons to do battle on another Coachella stage. Our mission: talk to a few cast members and find out what it really takes to be a member of Lucent Dossier.
1. Don't be a Pansy
These guys rehearse. A lot. We're talking 18 hour days sweating your ass off in a warehouse in L.A.'s Fashion District dancing your ass off. Prepping for major tours (including a post-Coachella North American jaunt) requires time to train with new equipment, hone their fire twirling skills, make costumes from scratch, etc. "You really can't be a pansy and hang out with us," Rockwell says. "People fall off, people can't handle it. We'll sleep at our warehouse, we'll do whatever. We're all up in each other's butts all the time." Sounds a lot like family. And for the cast members Lucent, that's exactly what their troupe is. "We know one thing for sure–we love and respect each other."
2. Have that star quality (and be willing to play with fire)
Sure, having a hot body and the ability to fold yourself into a human pretzel is nice. But one thing that will always separate Lucent from lesser cabaret/carnival freak shows is the magnetism of the individuals that put on the costumes. That's pretty much how Rajiv Jaine one of Lucent's main, muscle-bound acrobatic thespians, became part of this wild circus. "I came to Coachella one year building art installations and I saw Lucent and I instantly fell in love with [Dream Rockwell], I told myself I just need to be near this woman," Jaine says. "I already had an interest in theater and sets and stuff, so it was perfect."
Eight years later, he's performed countless times at shows and festivals all over the world. His training has literally been a baptism by fire. "I remember my first time handling fire on stage, Dream literally came up to me before we were supposed to go one stage at this rave in front of 5,000 people and put a stick of fire in my hand. "Jaine says. "I was like "what?!" But I just went for it. You gotta own it. And now [fire twirling] has really evolved for me, like a language."
3. Give Good Face
You know what helps sell big stunts to the crowd? Big facial expressions. Otherwise, Rockwell says, "it's just a bunch of tricks and who cares." So if you're gonna make the squad you need to know how to on those eyes wide, show those teeth, and sell the shit out of whatever you're doing on stage. "If the audience can't see your face, then they can't relate. But if you can make an emotional connection, that's what it takes to really be successful at this."
4. Be young, fearless and available
Emailing Lucent Dossier a few photos of yourself in clown makeup and and asking them for a job will never get you hired. It's all about the face-to-face meeting with Rockwell. That usually means you have to be willing to make yourself a bit of a courteous pest–go to shows, talk to her after, offer to help out the troupe in any way you can. That's pretty much how it happened for 17 year-old Eva Harper, a badass fire spinner who was backstage on Friday who just performed in her very first show with Lucent on stage at Coachella. Three years ago, she managed to make an impression on Rockwell and the gang, offering to do makeup, fix up costumes and eventually learn a performance skill. Having been to Coachella for the last couple years as a fan in the crowd, being an actual performer this time around has been incredible. "This is the first year where I'm extremely happy and excited and I'm around good people and feeling good about myself. I don't have to be like "ugh, another Coachella."
5. Do it for the love
Roger Forjas has been with Lucent Dossier since day fucking 1–when the DoLab was only a weird, artistic dot in the middle of the Empire Polo Fields. Back then, the Do Lab's ability to provide circular, non-conformist stages made out of bamboo was enough to create a curiosity factor for Coachella goers. 10 years later, as the fest has gone through a multitude of changes, Forjas puts all of Lucent's handwork and development into perspective as he puts harnesses a giant sphere apparatus for a fat suit over his shoulders behind the stage. It's outrageous and funny looking, but also a good physical representation of how Lucent Dossier has grown in the last decade. "Back in the day, we were just doing it for fun, we were just trying to make sure our passion and our art were there. Now it's become a livelihood."
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