My comment on the Guardian article entitled: "'I didn't want any wobbling': how to dance naked"

Well, really its my comment on the comments - I am responding to the comment thread on an article about nudity in contemporary dance - the comments were a mixed bag of knee jerk negative reaction, thoughtful commentary, and jokes. Because I do so much naked work, I had to throw my hat in the ring.

Read the article here:

www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/may/30/dancing-naked-peu-tendresse-bordel

And my comment, posted on page 3 or 4 of the comments page:

Several people on this comment thread have wondered why choreographers and performers would use nudity in their work, and several have said or implied that we do it out of exhibitionism, vanity, and to get bums in seats.

Of course, that kind of naked work exists, and indeed it can be very entertaining, charming, titillating - and sometimes it can someone a lot of money. More power to those who want to use it that way.

But there are also many other reasons to employ the naked form onstage. St. Pierre’s piece “Un peu de tendresse bordel de merde!” is “about the search for love and the human form.” (from the Sadler’s Wells website), and isn’t vulnerability one of the biggest elements in the human “search for love?” What is more vulnerable than a naked body? As performance makers, particularly those of us who work without words, we use nudity, and everything else, symbolically, poetically, to create experiences in and for our audiences.

Or at least, that what I am trying to do when I use nudity in my performances, which is often.

In my most recent performance, “Dance Me to the End of Love,” I too am exploring love, and exposure, the non normative body, intimacy, vulnerability and partnering.

At a certain point in this new show, after I am nude, I too, go into the audience. I do not clamber over them, as my point is somewhat different – instead I make contact with them – first by sitting with them and simply looking into their eyes and holding their hands, and then finally by partner dancing with them – me nude, them fully clothed. I then get them all dancing with each other. By the end of this 15 minute piece the entire audience is partner dancing, with people they know and don’t know, with people of the same or different genders, and my nudity is no issue at all. My point is to break the barrier between myself and the audience, and between them and each other, to break the voyeuristic and separate nature of the audience/performer relationship, to make us all vulnerable and then all safe and in it together, and to create a moment where we feel hope. So far, it works. And it would not work the same way, if at all, without both my nudity and my proximity to the audience.

This is strategic, creative, symbolic, poetic use of nudity to create an experience for the audience. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, of course, as nothing could ever be, but it is one example of the artistic and (I hope) transformative possibility of nudity in performance. And nudity in performance has a long history of this nature that I, as well as David St Pierre and everyone else working this way is referring to and indeed, indebted to.

In terms of “Un peu de tendresse bordel de merde!” I’m excited to be seeing the show on Saturday, and I will be very surprised if the nudity does not make symbolic sense in a piece about “the search for love and the human form.” (No one will be clambering over me, as I can only afford the cheap seats in the second circle, more’s the pity. But I’ll get to monitor audience response, if I bring binoculars!).





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