The art of the rave

Lust is out to prove that theater can capture the club experience, from free-for-all dance to Lords of Acid techno

Onnoleigh Sweetman smiles her come-hither smile.

Onnoleigh Sweetman smiles her come-hither smile.

Photo By Brian Smith

Onnoleigh Sweetman is the striking blonde who smiles lasciviously from the posters of Lust that hang around town. She is also an ambitious artist who’s just begun to shake things up in Reno.

Sweetman is the founder of Millennium Performing Arts, a dance/theater company that delights in pushing the proverbial envelope.

“I’m aiming at the unsuspecting public,” says Sweetman, a native of Rochester, N.Y. “The way I get my point across is by shocking people. Call it my New York influence.”

Lust is a sexually charged show, to be certain, but that alone shouldn’t raise many eyebrows in Reno. This is, after all, the land of topless casino kick-lines and well-publicized gentlemen’s clubs.

The real bombshell of Lust is the full-scale, interactive foray into rave culture. In the last few years, a strong subculture has formed around techno music and dancing.

Sweetman discovered techno club dancing four years ago in Las Vegas. She found not only a pastime, but an undiscovered realm of beauty and art. At clubs, people cast off inhibitions and revel in the joys of movement, music and unabashed sexuality.

“It’s an art form. I thought, ‘Why hasn’t anyone exploited this?’ “

About three years ago, Sweetman began writing a screenplay about club-goers. Over time, the screenplay morphed into the stage performance Lust. All through the creative process, the music of The Lords of Acid—Belgian musicians whose electronic beat and explicit lyrics capture the energy and sexuality of the clubs at which their music is played—was playing in Sweetman’s mind.

Sweetman refers to Lords of Acid’s music as “techno-porn.” The lyrics, which figure prominently into Lust‘s themes, are both brazenly direct and laced with double-entendres. One particularly racy sequence is set to a song that purports to be about an aesthetically pleasing cat.

In addition to several Lords of Acid songs, Lust‘s score includes both familiar and original pieces, featuring live vocals by opera singer Jill Snyder and spinning by Johnno Lazetich, aka DJ Johnno Wayne. Sweetman had never seen techno music performed by a live vocalist, but since club culture is a celebration of freedom, she had no qualms about breaking the rules.

Choreographer Amber Anne Balliet, a classically trained dancer, has enjoyed the challenge of applying structure to a type of movement that is by definition improvisational. While choreographing the show, she was careful to maintain the spirit of spontaneous club dancing.

Lust is a four-part show. The first three sections feature techno-inspired themes and loosely structured narratives. By the fourth act, the show evolves into Club Millennium, a free-for-all dance party with audience members included.

“When you watch a movie about a rave, it looks like it might be fun, but it’s not like being there,” Balliet says. “This is a club. We created it, brought it together, and put it out there.”

Is Reno ready to party at Lust?

“This city is exploding with arts,” Sweetman says. “I think this is a great place to bring a new kind of art.”

Sweetman believes that the show will appeal to many kinds of people, including those who have never handled a glow stick.

“I think people will sit up and go, ‘Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this before!' "