On an otherwise empty stage lies a stack of large white cloths, and two pairs of bright red heels stand next to some sort of mini synthesiser or loop pedal. A show awaits us. Five male dancers enter the room, descending frenetically from the structures through the stands to the swinging, uplifting tunes of Serge Gainsbourg’s Daisy Temple. As rambunctious kids, wrestlers or showgirls, they embrace us, sometimes literally, with their infectious enthusiasm.
After the frenzied opening, their colourful garments are soon taken, sometimes bitten off. In L’Homme rare, five hip-swaying naked bodies literally turn their backs on us and disappear into an anonymous, sensual exploration of masculinity and femininity for the remaining show.
Nadia Beugré has given the stage to ‘a group of men in heels’ after several pieces ‘dedicated to free, resistant and struggling women’. It’s the outcome of her research ‘on our understanding of the body, notably black and male’ (three dancers are of colour). Using the square white cloths, they costume themselves through scenes of predators devouring one another, of graciously reticent priests, apparitions of beggars, and erotic flirting.
The dancers are muscular to the point of hypermasculine. We are offered a playful probing into stereotypical ‘performances of gender’. But the true gist for me lies in the more general spectator–performer relation. Admittedly, their nudity, impressive physiques and their exclusive showing of their backs create a voyeuristic experience that easily slides into objectification, which is undoubtedly part of our customary understanding of male and female bodies. But I’m not sure whether swaying hips and supple pelvises are necessarily perceived as either feminine or masculine.
The performance is far from spectacularly provocative. Instead, it moves intelligently through the ranks of broad back potential, resulting in beautiful, funny and gripping images, rigged with the slightly uncomfortable acknowledgement that our gaze will not be returned. And that deliberate construction is winning.