Two athletic young men go through an exhausting series of acrobatic callisthenics on stage. They handstand, push-up, sit-up, flex, run, and jump while the audience meanders to its seats. At last, the two cease their workout in order to stand panting side by side for a time period so long, it becomes weird, uncomfortable, and then comic. This development of abstraction to clarity with a desire to find the humour in every movement is the driving force behind Un Poyo Rojo.
Un Poyo Rojo is a loose narrative built of several choreographed vignettes in which the two principal performers, Luciano Rosso and Nicolás Poggi, develop a sexual and sensual relationship that grows out of emulation and competition. When they first “connect”, it is in a stereotyped masculine way in a locker room. The dancers bump chests, kick at each other, push each other away from centre stage. Slowly, their posturing transitions into a more formal type of competition in which they perform as much for an audience as they do for each other. Playfully, they perform both masculine and feminine roles as Rosso responds to Poggi’s movements with gestures that are sexually aggressive. Initially, these aggressions seem to be just a combination of humour and posturing, but later they suggest real affection and emotion. Poggi rebuffs these advances in a multitude of ways, as if sussing out Rosso’s true intentions.
There are so many things that make this show remarkable, starting with the high quality of the demanding, physical choreography. There are pantomimes of a ridiculous hair style, a model on a cat walk, a variety of birds, fish flopping around. It’s a rich palette drawing on numerous dance and movement disciplines including ballet, popping and locking, break, tango, and more.
Another notable feature is the way characters are constructed without any words, drawing on a tradition of clowning. Poggi’s character is dreamy and romantic, yet also manly and strong. Rosso’s is a contrast — a bit deviant and playful, persistent, and full of humour, much more fluid in his sexuality. This especially comes out in the vignettes where the two use live radio for music, resulting in an improvisational choreography. The two have a fantastic ability to use their bodies and faces to express complex emotions and the situations that give rise to them. There is a richness to their physicality that is a pleasure to watch.
Finally, the show is funny. The two use juxtaposition and exaggeration and push their movements to an absurd point. For example, when the two get dressed on stage, their contrasting styles of underwear get a big laugh. This style works especially well when they work outside what one traditionally expects for a man, such as feigning the pose of a diva lying on a beach or doing a fan dance. But even movements that seem to have no specific identifiable object of representation, such as spinning one’s hands or arms around, become ridiculous and hilarious.
Overall, Un Poyo Rojo proves to be surprisingly sweet and a lot of fun. The simplicity and light heartedness of the show mask the demanding athleticism that goes into the choreography. It’s a masterfully done show that belies the performers’ radiant joy and talent.
Un Poyo Rojo is at the Centaur Theatre (453 St. Francis Xavier) until September 29. Tickets can be found HERE.