because the personal is cultural
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