The concept of art changing your perception of time, space, energy and theatre etiquette is both challenging and exciting when achieved.
The Vancouver International Dance Festival’s double bill of Toronto's Benjamin Kamino, with Nudity. Desire and Montreal's Benoît Lachambre and his dance company Par B.L.eux with Snakeskins at The Roundhouse, did that with aplomb.
Opening the evening, Kamino’s work seems as at home in a performing space as in an art gallery.
A beautiful, young man covered in tattoos with long hair flying, Kamino began naked and dancing facing away from the audience, an expression of joy and revel in the physical. A ghetto blaster placed on stage providing intermittent sound and a white paper backdrop with no seams was his surface. Stillness alternated with gesture and physical acts that included writhing, hiding, begging, leaping, mouthing words and trying to speak, running, howling, eating, singing, and drinking.
Nudity. Desire builds from the work of Giorgio Agamben’s, an Italian Continental Philosopher, work around the “homo sacer” (the sacred man or the accursed man) with the idea of the “bare man” and the “qualified man”.
Kamino examines the moment of the naked man’s fall in Genesis; the time when humanity first acquired a capacity for knowledge, language, and desire.
Clearly a piece that has been worked on over a long period-Dancing on the Edge produced it in 2011, there was never an unfilled moment, a transition that wasn’t smooth or organic, or a clear subtext that didn’t fill the audience with thought, entertainment or excitement.
At the end of work, as Kamino sat and quaffed a brew and chatted in the buff with an audience member our attention was directed to Lachambre, naked from the waist up with a brown harness encasing his torso and moving with the concentrated attention of a corporal mime artist. Never putting the flat of his foot down on the ground, he did the whole thing on the sides of his boots, twisting his ankles in an excruciating way.
As he moved in front of a large puzzle that was eventually built into a photograph by Christine Rose Divito, Daniele Albanese , wearing a lucha libra mask, and a nerdy child-like outfit of a striped hoody with the number 12 on it, not very groovy jeans and non brand sneakers, pinned the puzzle pieces on him and then moved them to the huge photograph placed as a backdrop on a metal frame. The audience then followed them and the photograph into the main stage theatre.
We were greeted with a huge structure that had hundreds of ropes secured at the back and then ending at the fourth wall of the stage. Like spokes of a wheel, they defined the space.
Musician/composer Hahn Rowe was placed stage right surrounded by the metal sheets, bows, violin, electric guitar and electronic equipment used to build the score.
What happened next was an acid trip of illusion with Lachambre playing within the confines of the structure and Rowe was as riveting in his use of found objects and playing known instruments in unusual ways.
Lighting by Yves Godin, who also collaborated with Benoît Lachambre, Philippe Dupeyroux on the scenography, was integral to the magic that was created.
The Mexican wrestling masks were donned by all three at various times signalling the high flying, action-packed world of lucha libre.
On a stripped stage going down to the bare brick and windows, the piece ended with bows that never ended and the two dancing with technical expertise- they now looked like dancers dancing. Audience started to leave and we were left to imagine that they finally stopped when everyone had exited. Or perhaps they were still dancing and bowing long into the night?
As they danced, the technical crew came on board to tidy up, signalling that a non–matrixed performance is still performance.
As audience members discovered in the lobby afterwards, everyone had a different interpretation of the piece. But what was clear was that everyone would be thinking about it for a very long time.