because the personal is cultural
Here, the performers still create characters, but the world never follows suit. Instead, as can be seen in their insistence on facing the audience, they are merely performing for us. With the loud buzzer that periodically interrupts their performance, they appear like contestants on a reality TV show pathetically vying for our attention.
The show relies on excess (seven performers are onstage for the entire eighty minutes) but, rather than helping in making a particular environment emerge, this merely leads to distraction. Our eyes travel from one to another, noticing that some are merely moving not to be still during the main action and that the three cymbal players look the way I do when I hang out at a bar just hoping someone will take me home so I can get the fuck out of there. These musicians become a too easily accessible exit.
At the FTA back in 2008, I’d accused Marie Chouinard’s obnoxious Orphée et Eurydice of suffering from Middle Child Syndrome. I could say the same of De marfim e carne, which is funny because Freitas cites the myth of Orpheus as an inspiration in the program. Perhaps the artistically gifted Orpheus is ironically performance kryptonite. Maybe those who killed him could hear his so-called divine music after all.
During the show, I also thought about Nicolas Cantin. Last week, I saw his Philippines at the OFFTA. Cantin is definitely not for everyone, but artistically I admire his work, which seems perpetually concerned with figuring out what’s the least that one can do on a stage. I sometimes find myself wishing some shows, De marfim e carne being a perfect example, were doing less.
With its constant “let me entertain you” attitude, it sometimes seems like the show is striving to be a critique of the vacuity of entertainment culture. 1) Yes. 2) And…? 3) Where’s the critique? Because, with its lack of bite, De marfim e carne doesn’t seem to critique so much as to be complacent about the vapidity of entertainment. If anything, it capitalizes on it. It is the artistic equivalent of overconsumption.
Yet, when the dancers come back for an encore, i.e. the worst concert ritual, it seems like they must know they’re acting like the worst. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
June 3 & 4 at 8pm
Place des Arts – Cinquième Salle
Tickets: 39$ / 30 years old and under: 33$
“Shake that ass” began my review of Ann Van den Broek’s Co(te)lette, and so could begin my review of Marlene Monteiro Freitas’s Paraíso – Colecção privada. Except there is a notable difference between the two works: in Co(te)lette, it was three women shaking their ass; in Paraíso, it’s three men.
Also, while the gaze of men could be felt everywhere in Co(te)lette, they were nowhere to be found onstage. In Paraíso, the opposite gender finds embodiment in Freitas herself, who appears as a gothic mistress of ceremony with organ music at her disposal. She wears a black cactus-like helmet that is potentially inspired by spiders and her top comes with matador-like shoulder pads.
For their part, the four men that join her are shirtless. Otherwise, some show the physical characteristics of particularly virile animals, like the tail of a horse or the horns of a ram. However, wild they are not. They are her beasts and they are most well trained, doing whatever she demands on command. Movements of her arms are scored by little bells, turning her creatures into Pavlov’s dogs.
While their shell is butch, their behaviour is otherwise. Their dance is spastic, nervous. They look like battery-operated toy dogs, their movement jerky, like they’ve been emptied out of their soul and are now more akin to robots. When in a particularly S&M section Freitas jams a harmonica in one man’s mouth, the other’s wide doe eyes reveal that each fears the same fate.
The horse-like man uses his hands to mimic wings on his back and a horn in the middle of his forehead, turning himself into a cross between a unicorn and a Pegasus. To satisfy their mistress’s desires, they must be able to change on a dime. There is something clown-like in the way all the performers act, if clowns weren’t the worst thing in the world.
One man moves his pecs to the music. She rewards her pets with food (peanuts?)… though not always. When they take a break, Freitas feasts on a chicken and even offers some to a few audience members, but none to her male dancers.
Her power extends beyond the stage as she orders the sound person to raise the volume or stop the music. She even targets coughing audience members by turning her hand into a fist.
Paraíso is a sexist fantasy turned on its head. The question is whose paradise, of course, since (as the subtitle implies) the concept is necessarily private, personal. It’s only ever paradise for who is in power.
The show might be a bit one-note, but it’s a pretty good fucking note. The movement vocabulary is singular and the dancers' commitment to it brings an equally unique world into being.
The four men leave the stage shortly before the end, leaving Freitas to hog the spotlight. I wish the choreographer had carried her premise to its ultimate end by being the only one to come back out to take a bow.
June 4-6 at 9pm
Agora de la danse
514.844.3822 / 514.842.2112
Tickets: 38$ / 30 years old and under: 33$
C’est bien d’avoir un groupe d’adolescentes dans un spectacle de danse. On peut souvent se fier à leurs réactions pour savoir si quelque chose d’intéressant se passe. Si elles se regardent constamment pour savoir comment elles devraient réagir (car on sait que, lorsqu’on est adolescent, les réactions individuelles sont interdites), c’est bon signe. C’est bien l’art qui laisse perplexe, face auquel même notre réaction ne peut être simpliste.
C’est ce qui s’est passé lors de la représentation de (M)IMOSA: Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church (M) en cette deuxième journée du Festival TransAmériques. Ce n’est peut-être pas surprenant étant donné que, comme le sous-titre l’indique, le chorégraphe new-yorkais Trajal Harrell croise la culture queer avec la vision démocratique du mouvement des chorégraphes postmodernes.
Et il n’est pas le seul chorégraphe-interprète. Il y en a trois de plus, rassemblant aussi Paris et Lisbonne : Cecilia Bengolea, François Chaignaud et Marlene Monteiro Freitas. On pourrait avoir peur que ce soit chaotique, et ce l’est, mais non pas à cause du nombre de chorégraphes, mais bien dû à l’esthétique postmoderne. Ironiquement, c’est aussi celle-ci qui permet au spectacle de faire preuve de cohésion.
Le courant postmoderne a donné de la fraicheur à la danse. (« Ça respire, » j’ai écrit dans mes notes.) Il y a quelque chose de libérateur lorsque les gens cessent de se soucier du beau, du sexy. Ça fait du bien être laid ou ridicule de temps en temps.
On retrouve dans (M)IMOSA le mouvement au quotidien, comme si les interprètes ne faisaient que danser dans leur chambre à coucher en chantant leur chanson du moment, sans trop se forcer, et que nous avions la chance de les espionner. D’un autre côté, il y a la performance « all eyes on me » des voguers et drag queens et kings. On peut d’abord se rappeler Spoken Word/Body de Martin Bélanger, et ensuite Pow Wow de Dany Desjardins, mais (M)IMOSA réussit mieux la transition au théâtre.
Peut-être que la relation avec le public en est la raison. Les lumières continuent d’éclairer les spectateurs durant la pièce, comme pour nous faire sentir qu’on fait partie intégrale du spectacle. On fait fi de la religiosité conventionnelle de la performance théâtrale, et c’est ce qui finit par théâtraliser le tout. Les interprètes se promènent parmi le public et cherchent leurs accessoires dans les rangées sans se soucier du bruit qu’ils font.
Il y a aussi quelque chose de rafraichissant à voir des interprètes de talent refuser la virtuosité, en faire moins qu’ils en sont clairement capables. Le talent se laisse alors deviner ici et là, et il n’en ait que plus réjouissant. En tout cas, leur confusion initiale passée, les adolescentes ont eu l’air de vraiment tripper.
25-26 mai à 21h
514.844.3822 / 1.866.984.3822
Billets à partir de 35$
Have you ever wondered what Jackass would look like if it were contemporary dance instead of performance art? Me neither, yet last night I got to find out all the same. With Still Standing You, Belgian Pieter Ampe and Portuguese Guilherme Garrido have produced the kind of work that can only come from a place of deep friendship and trust. How else could a couple of straight buds hold each other’s sweaty cock?
From the beginning, they are pushing their bodies to the limit as Ampe is lying on the floor, legs straight in the air, and Garrido sits on his feet while making casual conversation with the audience. As is often the case, the job is harder for Ampe, and Guilherme likes to be a dick about it. When he moves his feet to Ampe’s hands, he then puts his own hands on Ampe’s still erect feet, then his fists, then but a finger to show how easy his end of the deal is.
They grunt like cave men as they lift and rock each other as though fucking… before the one standing up forcefully throws the other on the ground. Riding on each other’s back, they act like Godzilla destroying the helpless tiny city below them. But play, just like sex, can on a dime turn brutal. Ampe stands on Garrido’s lying body and walks on top of him by lifting him by the belt and shirt.
There is no music (except for the percussive one they create with their bodies) and all the stage lights are on for the length of the show. While for most shows it is better to hide as much as possible to stimulate the imagination, here everything must be seen. Still Standing You is not trying to be pretty or graceful. When a move threatens to become so, the men simply drop each other on the ground. It’s about making it look hard rather than easy.
Still Standing You is a mix of physical feats (how to move around one another while holding each other’s penis?), slapstick, competitive play, juvenile behaviour, male bonding, circus acts, and sadomasochism. Both performers and audience members participate in the latter.
However, moments of genuine care can also be witnessed, like when one massages the ass of his partner… before pushing him down the floor with his feet. After all, S&M isn’t about hurting the other with malignant intent; it’s about caring enough about the other to be able to fulfil their desire to experience pain. The men also rest on top of each other, gently blow on each other, carry each other in their arms, and arrange each other’s pubic hair. It’s the kind of love that makes it possible to hit each other with a belt and still be okay with one another.
After the show, I heard someone say “C’est con, mais c’est bon.” Yes, it is bon. More than bon, actually. But con it certainly isn’t. If anything, Still Standing You is one of the densest shows I have ever seen. Someone could write a PhD thesis about it (and undoubtedly will). It’s about man with a small “m” as beast. It’s about the non-existent line between male bonding behaviour and homoeroticism. It takes the piss out of contemporary dance. It’s a parody of gender performance, of machismo. It’s camp. Who else can claim to have managed to perform drag while completely naked? It’s quite simply the most riveting show I’ve seen in years.
Still Standing You
June 1-3 at 9pm
Théâtre La Chapelle
Tickets: 28$ / Under 31, over 64 years old: 22$
has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.
s.verstricht [at] gmail [dot] com