Three testosterone-fuelled, fully-clothed men surround a generously-lit, naked male facing upstage. After the trio slowly undresses all four men lock into a sensual quartet, avidly sniffing each others’ shoulders and quietly placing their tendril-like hands on each other’s amber-lit skin: an invitation, or a refusal? This short and voluptuous sequence offers the most enthralling moment of the festival weekend, rendering the ensuing pas de quatre all the more regrettable. Scarce and unevenly executed, it involves Matisse-inspired merry-go-rounds, cautious embraces and lifts, the dancers only splitting their dull routine by lecherous, statuesque poses. This dreamy yet blundery dance ends with the men regaining solitude – their fanciful adventures bygone, the future unsettled. Moved by the often discreet yet sexual ballet in the labyrinths (‘dédales’ in French) of male saunas, Deschamps forges mesmerising and heedful physical imagery but is trapped by wanting to show more without pushing his ideas far enough. Despite all its shortcomings, Dédale shines with the unadorned beauty of a half-baked diamond, leaving us craving for more.
Their bare skin bathed in soft amber lighting, four naked men sway together, linking arms and letting go to weave a complicated pattern. Lingering gazes suggest they are intensely aware of one another.
At first their stances seem slightly predatory, their slow steps revealing a faint apprehension – is this hesitation the choreographer’s choice, or nervousness on the part of the performers? Yet their connection grows into a caring and tender rapport. When they touch, softly placing a hand on the other’s shoulder to orbit around them, it is deliberate and sensitive.
Jordan Deschamps’ Dédale is not your stereotypical power struggle between men, yet the piece feels unfinished and under-rehearsed. The meditative Armenian music fades away clumsily, and the poses the dancers strike are too often heavy-handed, overly illustrating the male archetypes the piece wishes to uncover. The beauty in it deserves to be polished to shine more brightly.
An inequality that’s both curious and unsettling greets us at the start. One man stands naked, his back to the audience – while three others, fully clothed, stare intently at what he has to offer.
But before long, they join in and all four gather in a huddle of nude expectation. Hands by their sides, they use noses as tools of exploration, sniffing each other’s shoulders like dogs.
The men are scoping each other out, but to what end? Are they friends or foe? Are they about to fight or fuck? A hand run languorously over a chest suggests the latter, but Dédale is less about sex than gentle connection – albeit temporary in Jordan Deschamps’ recreation of a male sauna.
As a counterbalance to all the heteronormative interactions we see, this comes as welcome relief – and Deschamps’ movement has a sparse beauty – but a deeper reflection might have paid more dividends.