Dada Ball raises money in definitely unboring way

Several activities scheduled for New York's Dada Ball: a nude man shaves himself from head to toe and invites guests to autograph his body; a Weimaraner models a ball gown on the runway; a white paper dress, bearing the words of the Emily Dickinson poem "The Soul Has Bandaged Moments," is ripped from a woman's body piece by piece, and a man in a bathtub has eggs cracked on his head.

"You're kidding me, aren't you?" said Blaine Trump when she heard about the planned entertainment at the AIDS benefit, which she said she would attend. She laughed nervously and added, "I suppose I should reconsider what I'm going to wear."


This celebration of the avant-garde is the latest addition to the staid benefit circuit. Artists, designers, performers and chefs are contributing their talents for the Dada Ball, to be held tomorrow night at Webster Hall, re-creating a famous party that took place in the same building in 1917.

The party, called the "Blindman's Ball," patterned after the Dada soirees that were popular in Paris at the time, was attended by such notable artists as Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Joseph Stella and Beatrice Wood.


"We didn't want this to be the typical fund-raiser formula -- polite speech, auction and rubber chicken dinner," said Garth Clark, the Dada Ball's organizer. "We had only one rule: no boredom allowed."

The term Dada (selected at random from a French-German dictionary, where it was defined as French for "hobbyhorse") was coined in Zurich at the Cabaret Voltaire, a fertile environment for Europe's avant-garde artists. The word made its way to Greenwich Village in a matter of months, where certain artists embraced the new nihilistic movement and held Dada parties similar to the Parisian balls.

The Blindman's Ball was dedicated to the defense of Duchamp's "Fountain," simply a urinal, which had been rejected as non-art from an important art exhibition in 1917. The signed utilitarian piece of porcelain has since become a modern art icon.

Beyond that, Dada's influence has been formidable. Its spirit can be seen in everything from punk rock to the comedian Sandra Bernhard to the performance artists Blue Man Group.

The Dada Ball is to begin at 9 p.m. with "Dada's Just Desserts," the serving of Dada-inspired confections made by local restaurateurs and artists. The team of Florent Morellet and Roy Lichtenstein has come up with an ingenious recipe: a cake in the shape of a giant wedge of Swiss cheese. Slices will be dipped in chocolate and served on mouse traps.

Other Dada attractions include a performance by the choreographer Bill T. Jones; a fashion show that features designers like Colleen Atwater, the Hollywood costume designer Edward Scissorhands," "Ed Wood,"); a performance art piece by John Kelly, and a dance by Robert LaFosse, a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet, entitled "Homage a Fountain," with a straitjacket and a toilet as props.

Ticket prices range from $25 for students to $500 for a reserved balcony seat. All proceeds will benefit two AIDS organizations: Housing Works and Visual AIDS.