The House of Red Velvet Returns With “A New Baptism”

The House of Red Velvet: A New Baptism (Photo Credit: Meredith M. Carlson)
The House of Red Velvet at Pico Union Project (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)
Pico Union Project stage (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)

It’s been nearly two years since The House of Red Velvet last opened its doors to patrons, and it returned for one night only with the debut of “A New Baptism.” The latest incarnation of the show invited guests to witness a string of performances tied together by forbidden, ethereal forces that culminated in an entrancing ceremony. When I exited the building, I was absolutely struck by the visceral energy that had been generated that evening.

The event transpired within the doors of the Pico Union Project, a historic structure dating back to 1909 that served as a synagogue and Welsh Presbyterian church. Inside the sanctuary, candles lined the sills of stained-glass windows and crimson light imbued the entire space. The air was buzzing with anticipation and an eager crowd awaited the commencement of The House’s ritual.

Founder of The House of Red Velvet & performer Olivia Bellafontaine (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)
Founder of The House of Red Velvet & performer Olivia Bellafontaine (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)

When founder Olivia Bellafontaine emerged on stage, the atmosphere shifted in the room. The performer emanated an enchanting presence that held the gaze of all voyeurs. She was seductively clad in white and as she came into the spotlight, a dark guardian angel, enacted by Devin Koppel, appeared in the balcony above as if to anoint her for the initiation ahead. Bellafontaine moved to bluesy, rock-and-roll rhythms in a manner that evoked sensuality and desire, preparing to transcend to a higher state.

The House of Red Velvet performer Yael Stormborn (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)
Performer Yael Stormborn (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)

“A New Baptism” also introduced new performing artists, known as Daughters of The House of Red Velvet. The first was Yael Stormborn whose performance plunged deep into carnality and cravings of the flesh. The act incorporated Shibari, a rope bondage art form with roots in Japan. A mysterious cloaked figure wielding a sword accompanied her. He tied her up, then proceeded to tease her with the blade, running it across her body, freeing her from her confines and even cutting through part of her black lace bodice. It was a number charged with abandonment and liberation.

The House of Red Velvet performer Frankie Tan (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)
Performer Frankie Tan (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)

Frankie Tan made her debut as well with a mesmerizing ballet performance. The first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata resounded from the speakers, and she gracefully glided across the stage, like an otherworldly creature awakening to greet the night. Suddenly, the music intensified, pounding, and her persona altered to match the fury. She began tugging on a scarlet rope, as if pulling it out of her bit by bit. At the climax, a blood-like residue stained her wardrobe, the result of cleansing herself of the binding that resided within her soul.

The House of Red Velvet performer Masha Ko (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)
Performer Masha Ko (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)

Artist Masha Ko has performed with The House in the past and specializes in the mystical Japanese dance Butoh. She entered the spotlight, pale and bare-skinned—a phantom enacting haunting motions and pushing against an unseen force. Before the conclusion of her sequence, she ascended to the terrace above the stage where a man placed a cloth upon her face and poured drops of liquid through it into her mouth. It was a powerful scene to watch as she oscillated between gasping and grinning before falling back into his arms for the final submergence.

Near the end, Bellafontaine returned draped in a black gown and holding lit anatomically heart-shaped candles in each hand. A gentleman with a whip in his grip loomed like a shadow behind her and started lashing it back and forth. Pain and relief shown across the performer’s face. As she stood there, she tightly grasped onto the hearts, and hot candlewax dripped down her arms like sanguine fluid. It was a climactic performance, brimming with fervor and reaching a cathartic release.

When the performers came together on stage for the finale, each received a white rose, which they held in their mouths. The women kneeled with heads held back, and Bellafontaine approached the Daughters, pouring a drop of water into the center of their flowers and then received her own anointment. The baptism was complete.

The House of Red Velvet performer Devin Koppel as the guardian angel (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)
Performer Devin Koppel as the guardian angel (Photo credit: Meredith M. Carlson)

This edition of The House of Red Velvet transcended a threshold that took the audience to the brink of utter relinquishment.

It aroused. It provoked. It tempted.

The irony of showcasing erotically charged performances in a place of worship transformed sacrilegious impulses into acts of holiness. Deeds deemed profane had become sacred by the end of “A New Baptism.”

Announcements have yet to be made as to when The House will return, but this past event proved it has more secrets to reveal in the future.

Don’t miss the chance to witness this surreal experience. For information on upcoming productions and ways you can show your support, visit the links below.

The House of Red Velvet Official Website




11 thoughts on “The House of Red Velvet Returns With “A New Baptism”

  1. This performance sounds mesmerising! It reminded me of the theatre show in Interview with the Vampire, ‘Vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires.’ Thank you for sharing your experience. If you ever do a tour of the UK I think my diary would fill up pretty quick!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a very interesting show from your description.

    And the building from 1909 sounds equally interesting.

    I’m trying to picture in my mind what a building that served as both a synagogue and a Welsh Presbyterian church would look like.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Intriguing, Jenn, and charged with tremulous potential. Hints of, and glimpses at, a vaster mystery – lovers of the shadows would have it no other way.

    Even the event dynamics themselves deepen the effect. This was a one-time deal, for now at least, until ???. Doesn’t that make this one stolen, forbidden, moment all-the-more electric?

    Of all the artists you feature, Frankie Tan resonates in particular. Thoughts of her floating through the twilight, Ludwig Van accompanying…yes, yes! Thanks to your photos and to your evocative descriptions, I’m there.

    That’s one of your talents, Jenn, selecting bracing moments and places, and thrilling them with your haunting descriptions. I swear, you could make bring out the atmospherics in a trip to the DMV.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The show is all the more magnificent in person! I’m glad my words communicate some of that.
      Oh my, writing about a visit to the DMV! If they start hosting spooky events, I just might😄
      Thank you for your kind words on my writing. I truly appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In person? No doubt, but you do a fantastic job making the event palpable for those of us across the continent.

    When I got to the part on Frankie, I thought, initially, it featured a video. The image moved in my mind’s eye, so evocative is your description.

    Liked by 1 person

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