Wednesday, January 18, 2012

These Guys Are Pigs: Men Who Dance

George Stamos and Dany Desjardins at the Dancemakers Studio

Exploring the animal within is one way of describing what’s going on in Liklik Pik, a 60-minute multi-media work by Montreal-based choreographer and dancer George Stamos.

In particular, it’s his inner pig which appears most to fascinate Stamos who, together with dancing partner Dany Desjardins, wears a pig mask as part of his exploration of the complex relationship between humans and animals.

The piece, which debuted Tuesday night as part of the TwoByFour festival of original duets which Dancemakers is presenting at its Centre of Creation studios inside Toronto’s Distillery District through to the end of the month, also uses grunting and snorting as well as the childhood ditty, This Little Piggy Went to Market (spoken here in snippets of French), to cement the pig as the work’s totemic theme.

But such literalness aside, Liklik Pik (the title appears derived from the Tok Pisin language of Papua, New Guinea, in which pik is the word for "pig") also works on a level of poetic association, using voice narration, repetitive movement, music, ambient sound and video projection to present the multidimensional bond with a disarming level of success.

Humans co-exist with animals, as Stamos demonstrates charmingly when he and Desjardins speak nostalgically of all the pets they’ve ever had. But animals exist also within humans in the form of certain so-called lower life behaviours which Stamos, a graduate of The School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam, investigates while undulating his crotch in a polyester suit, the unofficial uniform of the lounge lizard.

Photo by Johnny Ranger
In this sweaty romp of a work, these animal tendencies are sometimes presented playfully, such as when Stamos halts the on-stage action to wipe his brow and breathlessly chat up the audience about the latest eating trends within his own gay community. With Desjardins, he then serves up platters of freshly baked cupcakes vanilla and chocolate encouraging the audience to scarf them back as they listen to him drone on about clubbing in New York and the latest fad for nudity in contemporary dance, which he threatens to emulate with a striptease that ends with his underwear.

Here, Stamos is having the audience on, and it is a clever bit of sabotage in that it not only breaks down the proverbial fourth wall but clears the way for the action which follows, much of it disturbingly bestial as when one of dancers (pig masked again) simulates urinating on the other lying like a dog on the floor: humans become animals through a loss of moral direction, a loss of civilized control.

This message is scarily amplified in an earlier segment in which Stamos and Desjardins roll in synch on the floor to the taped voice of a radio announcer describing last summer’s scientific feat of 150 human-animal hybrid embryos grown in British laboratories. This part of the show is fact, not fiction, and it instantly sends a shiver down the spine of those who, just moments ago, were merrily munching on cake in the front row.

Stamos and Desjardins then flesh out the analogy further, walking on all fours and slyly encircling each other like predators in hunt of prey. It’s a deadly serious game. And it makes for terrific theatre. With Liklik Pik, Stamos effectively holds up a mirror to society to reflect the beast coiled within, waiting to attack.Oink to that.

Deirdre Kelly is a journalist (The Globe and Mail) and internationally recognized dance critic. She is also the author of the national best-selling memoir, Paris Times Eight (Greystone Books/Douglas & McIntyre). Visit her website for more information, On January 28, 4pm, Deirdre will interview Anthropologie merchandise manager Aaron Hoey live on stage at the Interior Design Show IDS 12 in Toronto; on January 29, she will emcee the Amici Ensemble’s show, Fashionista: Fashion as Art, at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio, starting at 3pm.

No comments:

Post a Comment