“Welcome to The Story of Red, I am your consent liaison, do you know about consent?” was our greeting as we entered the Valentine’s event at the House of Yes on Tuesday night. “If you wish to feed someone, kiss them, lick them, you must ask for consent first and receive a firm yes before anything can happen, is that clear darlings?” My date and I nodded enthusiastically, though I could feel him squeezing my hand in panic.
The Story of Red, billed as “an evening of immersive performance and edible pleasures,” was not for the faint of heart or for those easily flustered by a rogue nipple. If, however, naughty indulgence of all of your senses sounds like a good night out to you, then this event could not be beaten.
Upon entering the bar, we were met by a row of women in red lingerie and one in a cage. My date perked up immediately. They greeted us and ushered us through to the ballroom which was decked out like a Roman Bacchanal. The guests, all dressed in red or black, gathered around long tables, sitting on plush cushions. A singer and harpist provided the music as shirtless waiters poured champagne to the couples, snuggled in the half darkness. We made our way to the bar (the press pit for this event) so we could observe the event from afar. My account of this evening perhaps provides a more voyeuristic view of the night, as we were kept away from some of the participation, though this position had its benefits. For example, the moment a half naked dancer jumped up on the bar in front of us to perform a contortion routine. Or the werewolf who stopped by to talk with us, signing off by saying how lovely it was to chat, certainly worth the long trip from his “dimension” to get here.
The food, done by MF Events NYC, was as decedent as one might imagine. In fact, it went beyond that, it was utterly divine. A Valentine’s theme ran through the menu which began with a salad of radicchio, hearts (get it?) of palm, and ruby grapefruit. Following this, the modelesque servers brought out filet mignon on silver platters and began to dramatically carve them with enormous knives. The meat was so tender it could have been singing “Rolling In The Deep” to me. The demi-glazed filet was accompanied by roasted red potatoes and brussels sprouts which may sound boring but more than transcended their reputations. There was also a fish course, comprised of seared herbed salmon, as well as a risotto course which was just perfect for a self-confessed carb-loader like myself. As we ate, various performances were happening overhead, including a chain act by House of Yes cofounder and acrobatist Anya Sapozhnikova which was strength and grace personified.
After checking in with my date, we decided to head out into the bar for a quick de-brief. As we emerged from the ballroom, a tarot reader named Paige beckoned us over for a joint reading. Huddled for ten minutes at her candlelit table, we had learned that the big decision we were facing would be okay if we just followed our guts. Not exactly life-altering advice, but comforting nonetheless. By the time our tarot was done, so was the dinner and guests began to waft into the bar, some in blindfolds, some with whips and plenty holding on tightly to their dates.
A quick rearrangement and the ballroom had been transformed into a dance floor. We headed back inside as my date felt “the beats were good”. As we danced, high above our heads on a platform was a shadowbox theatre, where a silhouetted couple made love. I am really loath to make an Eyes Wide Shut reference here, but I must admit, it did come to mind.
House of Yes is known for its rotating cast of aerialists and The Story of Red did not disappoint on this front. Hanging high from the center of the room was a chandelier made out of fabric upon which five (or was it six?) aerialists climbed, contorted and clung. It actually became hard to determine which limb belonged to which performer as they became a mesmerizing, singular creature constantly moving and breathing together. It was my date’s first experience with aerialists and he stood slack-jawed in amazement.
In the courtyard area of the venue, guests were waiting in line for the naked hot tub experience and the smokers huddled in corners, their cigarettes’ glow seeming like seductive winks from the darkness. We sat for a while, watching the scene and decided to head home just before midnight. The whole evening flowed seamlessly from one space and moment to the next. Nothing felt rushed, everything seemed to appear just as it should.
On the walk back to my apartment my date commented, “I haven’t seen you smile like that in a while”. It was true, dancing in the ballroom together was something I hadn’t done in a very long time. The event really made space for couples (and thruples) to connect and be together. I didn’t see a single person on a phone the entire evening. For a party that seemed so sexually charged, I actually found the whole experience incredibly romantic. Perhaps not an ideal first date scenario, but if you have an opened minded partner who can be just a little bit freaky on a Tuesday night in February, take them to the House of Yes and for god’s sake hang on to them – they’re a keeper.
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