because the personal is cultural
“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$
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