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A Club for Aerialists and Clowns Moves to Manhattan

At 10 p.m. last Friday — laughably early by nightlife standards — there was already a line outside of House of X, a new Manhattan club conceived by the creators of House of Yes and the hotelier Ian Schrager.

Michael Becker — a so-called vibe ambassador, hired by the club to nudge patrons to get looser, freer and freakier — ushered a stream of guests into the subterranean nightclub. Mr. Becker, 39, wore a leather crown and a red glittery collar over a black harness that revealed a torso honed at his day job as a fitness instructor.

“Oh thank God,” said a clubgoer, Davide Fikri Kamel, 30, as he eyed Mr. Becker. “I thought I would be the only one who was transgressive tonight.”

He needn’t have worried. The soft opening of House of X had no shortage of bacchanalian behavior.

The evening included: dancers swinging from harnesses attached to their hair; a dominatrix extinguishing a cigarette on the tongue of a man; and a figure in roller skates whose head was obscured by an ornate lampshade.

Madcap antics like these would fit right in at House of Yes, the club’s sister in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. But would they work on the Lower East Side?

As Emily Benjamin, a partygoer, said at the start of the night: “How do you take something so Brooklyn and take it to Manhattan?”

Kae Burke and Anya Sapozhnikova opened the original House of Yes in 2007 in Ridgewood, Queens. After a fire, the space moved to an East Williamsburg warehouse in 2008 before settling into its current location in 2015.

House of Yes’s emphasis on circus arts, live performance and glittery hedonism made it a haven for enthusiasts of the Burning Man festival, who are known as “burners.” House of X — with its bespoke cocktails, plethora of velvet and location beneath the Public Hotel — is decidedly posher than its predecessor. Still, the burner spirit is baked in.

“Let’s just say some of the trippiness of the space may, in fact, be influenced by Burning Man,” Ms. Burke said.

One of the trippier details is a spiral staircase decorated with silicone molds of faces, hands and, ahem, other body parts. House of X looks and feels like a more sparkly version of its nightclub neighbor, the Box. But unlike the Box, which bills itself as a theater, the dance floor is central to House of X.

By 11 p.m. — still very early by dance club standards — the main floor was packed and moving. One patron with a gray beard and a neon-hued animal print suit twerked enthusiastically at the front of the stage. It wasn’t clear if he was a vibe ambassador or civilian clubgoer. Mr. Fikri Kamel (the one worried he would be the only transgressive party guest) danced in white spandex shorts that featured two prominent holes in the posterior.

For partyers in search of more tactile experience, there is a room made entirely of teal-colored fur. Well, almost entirely: There are a few gilded frames featuring wall-mounted breast forms and phalli.

Once guests removed their shoes, they were welcome to avail themselves of the furry floor, furry pillows, furry couches and plastic slinkies scattered about. The room was cozy, quiet and felt 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the club, which made one ponder what the fur’s texture and odor could become a few weeks after opening.

Outside the fur room, as performances began, it became even harder to distinguish hired hosts from enthusiastic guests.

Was that woman in the sequined bra-and-panty set a vibe ambassador? Was that club kid wearing the cardboard headpiece in the shape of an eggplant emoji a “V.I.P. activator”? Was that man with the gray beard going to twirl around the stripper pole or just hug it all night, like a subway commuter?

The climax of the evening came when vocalist Hannah Gill sauntered to the stage holding a leash connected to Ms. Sapozhnikova, the club’s co-owner.

A mannequin dangling over the dance floor began to move, its head a rotating disco ball, its limbs animatronic. Suspended plastic cherries bobbed up and down as Ms. Gill belted a song that consisted mostly of the automaton’s name: Cherry Babe.

The spectacle was reminiscent of the animated moon and spoon featured at Studio 54 decades before. But Mr. Schrager, who opened Studio 54 in 1977, insists that his influence on House of X is minimal.

“The smartest thing I could do would be to leave them alone and let them do their thing, which I have never done before,” Mr. Schrager said in an interview conducted earlier on Zoom.

Apsny News English

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