On Saturday night, I met Bana Kabalan at her studio, tucked away in the streets of New Center. Her studio, much like her art, is disheveled and tattered in the most beautiful way. It’s a uniquely Detroit space in a house that would otherwise be vacant.
I’ve known Bana for three years and she never fails to amaze me. She’s a true creative. Her gypsy-eclectic-Arabic style infuses everything she does with interest and originality. Her expansive portfolio includes DJing at City Club, art installations showcased at the DIA, belly dancing with The Potions and everything in between.
On this particular night, Bana was getting ready to belly dance at Theatre Bizarre in a headpiece and gown she made herself.
“The materials I used all came from the ground or the garbage! I use recycled materials to make the base of my headdress, which includes metal clothes hangers, wire, plaster and twine. I find these materials in the Junk Hole at the recycling center that I work at. The natural elements such as bones and feathers that I use all come from exploring the woods and constantly picking up gross dead things. I rarely spend money on materials, I always make art out of the things life tosses my way.”
Bana continued, talking about the symbolism her costume represents.
“I wanted to take the shape of a moth because I am fascinated by insects and at this point in my life I am truly manifesting the life of a moth. Post-metamorphosis I am searching for a type of flame that will ultimately lead to my final catharsis…[[some moths only live for a couple days because they do not have mouths to eat or drink water and spend these days searching for a mate to reproduce with or just ultimately die..what a romantic tragedy!]] I use the energy of the moon to fuel my body movement and bend my blood to make strange contortions through my figure, and I believe moths do something similar.”
How did you make the headpiece and bodice?
“Well my headpieces are made from clothes hangers that I bend to fit the shape of my head. Then I start getting crazy with it and adding various elements to the frame and build off of that. I never really know what I am going to do until it is in the moment. It just all falls into place after a series of moments of being very critical with what I am creating. My skirt was made out of a bridal dress that I found. I love the beautiful lace and beadwork so I am always searching through the wedding gowns at resale stores.”
Do you do commission work?
“I do! But my primary purpose of my artwork is not to make money. I make it to tame the chaos of waves inside my head. It is soothing and therapeutic for me so I cannot put a price tag to something that constantly saves me from insanity. But if someone calls me to tell me they want something and have some strange bone or wing they found I will make something for them!”
It was my first time going to Theatre Bizarre, I was excited (and nervous) for what lie ahead.
I asked Bana, a TB veteran of three years, how she would explain Theatre Bizarre to someone unfamiliar with the event?
“A strange force pulled you into a castle possessed with demons and for some reason you have transformed into a wolf.”
Bana and I drove to the Masonic together. After checking in at credentials, Bana parted ways to get ready for her performance at the Asylum Stage, on the 6th floor. Which left me free to explore the Bizarre on my own.
I’ve heard countless stories about the oddities that take place within the Masonic Temple during the event and braced myself for the worst. I love the obscure and unusual but run fast and hard from anything satanic and demonic.
I think I expected Theatre Bizarre to be a scary sex dungeon of forced participation.
In reality, Theatre Bizarre is a show of grandeur performances, theatrics, costumes and creativity. Picture a halloween extravaganza fit for the pages of The Great Gatsby.
Bana's performance was elegant and earthly. Her headpiece and gown complimented the ambient stage she performed on.
The event consumes six levels of the Masonic Temple. Performances are staged in various rooms on each floor. The rooms are named accordingly. I saw shows in The Odditorium, The Asylum, The Fistitorium (yep, you read that correctly) and The Peepshow.
J’adore was lucky enough to be one of the select few media allowed to photograph inside, feast your eyes on the inner workings of Theatre Bizarre.
Mark your calendar for next year's Theatre Bizarre. The performances, costumes, and set design are second to none. It is truly a spectacular event and well worth the $100 ticket price.