I’ve never seen someone kicked in the perineum, let alone get kicked by two people. But, thanks to Andrew Tay, François Lalumière, and Katarzyna Szugajew’s dance piece, Fame Prayer/ EATING, I saw body parts given exquisite mistreatment that could satisfy most everyone’s sadistic and masochistic tendencies.
The show bills itself as one that aims to “queer spirituality” and “reimagine ‘self-help book’ ideologies and pop culture spiritual texts as strategies for the body and choreography.” It’s hard to grasp what that means until witnessing the performance itself. Each segment starts with a passage from an unintentionally comedic spiritual text. It’s the usual hokey gazing, loving, touching kind of stuff. Then, all three (Tay the choreographer/dancer, Lalumière a visual artist, and Szugajew a photographer) interpret it physically. This is not Kumbaya hand holding and hippie tam tam in the park. The dances here are queer: transgressive, unexpected, and defiant.
In one choreography, the three repeatedly throw themselves at the floor in a combination of break dancing, yoga style postures, and free movements. In another choreography, they take ribbons of the sort one might find at a summer jam band festival in the Maritimes, but aim to create the cracking sound of a whip. In the most notable of the different choreographies, perhaps putting a spin on healing touch, they slap body parts together to create sounds. Bellies, breasts, bums, feet, perineums. Nothing is left untouched. I can only think of the black and blue marks left behind.
There is no attempt to disguise the effort or the suffering that this kind of performance brings, which has me thinking about how in traditional dance — ballet, say — the body is abused but god forbid an audience knows it. Ballerinas stand with their hearts racing, sweat running down their faces, in lines, holding every muscle still. In Fame Prayer/EATING, there is such satisfying honesty in hearing the “ouf” of a hard jump, of someone saying “I need a moment” before continuing, of seeing them pant and sweat without shame. The rawness of performance and its lack of pretense is electric. A full range of moods comes through in the performance as does the strong, unique personalities of each. Sameness is not the goal here; the show’s cohesion is in a demonstration of erotically tinged trust.
Perhaps because Tay has brought together a visual artist and a photographer, the costumes and set are very much an element of the performance. The three receive the audience while wearing high heeled shoes (or platforms) and audacious outfits — see through shorts, yellow thongs. Tay dons a baseball hat sporting a cock and balls that he wears through most of the piece. Squares of plastic on the ground are treated with bold, psychedelic designs in a rainbow of colours. A white piano and several white columns set the corners of the stage, though they gladly break through even these during the final piece.
Ultimately, I am left both awestruck and not a little disturbed with myself for enjoying this piece so much. Yet, it’s hard not to share in their enthusiasm. The three delight in sharing this experimental piece with an audience and give 110%. This is not a show for those who like clean feats of bodily grace. But for those who like dance with a side of S&M, this one fires on all cylinders.
Fame Prayer / Eating is at LaChapelle Theatre until May 1. Details HERE.