project image
Karl Cooney

first performed on May 19, 2018
The Ear (The Blue Rose + Plaster Cocktail Launch), Brooklyn, NY
performed twice in 2018


New York, NY


“Donut Man” is a multi-act ballet performed in two iterations. The songs that structured each act are from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”—a tale of love, deception, poor choices, and death. The chosen tracks created the perfect soundscape for this piece, offering energy and momentum. I used very recognizable themes such as a waltz and the ending song. I am not a trained dancer so my movements were sloppy, labored, and unpredictable. Ballet is meant to look effortless and graceful, and I strive to achieve the opposite.

I used donuts as a tool to explore movement, my physical limits, and my changing body. They symbolize weight gain that happens in the lower abdomen. The resulting dance is a physical display of binge eating crossed with a strenuous and frantic attempt at ballet.

The performance begins with a loud burp. Donuts and shapewear are strewn about a slick, black plastic tarp. I introduce the donuts, proudly displaying them to the audience, holding them over my head and twirling about. I violently stuff my face and underwear with the donuts in an increasing panic. I incorporate the struggle to put on tights and other shapewear into the dance. I explain the premise of Swan Lake and talk about myself and my body. I hold up a series of mini donuts of varying flavors and explain to the audience: “These are the fucks I give . . . Cinnamon fucks . . . Powdered sugar fucks . . . Regular fucks . . .”

After each statement, I put another donut in my underwear. I struggle to eat and dance without choking. Crumbs explode from the waistband of the underwear and runs in my tights. I become a lumpy and bloated version of myself.

At the end of the performance, I fall to the ground and teach my audience a song. I struggle to breathe and sing loudly.

“Do you know the donut man

The donut man—the donut man

Do you know the donut man

Who doesn’t even like donuts”

I bang on the floor to keep the beat and break several nails in the process. I ask my audience to keep singing along with me.