because the personal is cultural
They look at each other from the corner of their eye. Their bodies are stiff with self-consciousness. How to act? Better steal another glance from our neighbour to see what they’re doing. When unsure, it’s better to do the same as everybody else.
Even René Descartes thought so. Before he could even come up with his “I think, therefore I am,” he had decided that if one started with the assumption that they didn’t know anything, it was better for the time being to follow society’s rules until one did figure some truths out for themselves. The idea was exemplified by the analogy that, if one is lost in the forest, it is better to keep walking in the same direction even if one does not know where it will lead.
There is, of course, another implication: if one is going to put society’s rules into question, it might be best to keep quiet when one realizes that those rules are all bullshit. I’m paraphrasing.
Another way to put is that, if you’re the one walking being the prisoners in Plato’s cave and it’s your shadow being cast on the walls, you might not want to tell them it’s just you; human reality is even scarier to us than the monsters we’ve made up. That’s why we created monsters in the first place, so we’d never go in the forest in the first place. It’s safer to just stay at home and do the same as everyone else.
Luckily, choreographer George Stamos doesn’t seem to see it that way. In his world, it’s better to try things on for size. To him, it’s an essential part of what it means to be human. The forest is not outside of us, but within, and it extends to the edge of our skin and even into the extensions that we put upon ourselves. So put on a dress and some high heels, no matter what your sex; you might learn a thing or two about yourself and others in the process.
In Husk, everyone’s in drag from beginning to end, independently of their sex or what they’re wearing, if anything at all. It’s that, as Stamos had already touched upon in Cloak, there is no other way of being. As drag has thankfully highlighted, gender is nothing but a performance and we’re all faking it. We’re all monitoring each other and, more importantly, ourselves. When my nephew wanted a pink bedroom like Dora the Explorer, he was quickly told to get back in his gender line by his parents.
The gender performance in Husk is made so extreme that, along with the prosthetics the dancers sometimes wear, it impedes their movement and makes it awkward, much like their excessive touching does. When Rachel Harris is wearing a muscular male appendix, her movement is not as fluid as it usually is. It is not the body that she is used to. There is also something cheeky about the fake penis that dangles between her legs, as though Stamos is giving the contemporary dance audience what it wants, except not.
And sometimes it’s just what we need: someone to push us into the forest so we’ll realize that what’s scary is not what’s out there, but the beliefs that have been preventing us from going there in the first place.
February 8-10 at 8pm
Agora de la danse
Tickets: 26$ / Students and those under 30 years old: 18$
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