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Review 1, 4-16: Figure Studies
Body Language from Daniel Leveille
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2003 Chris Dohse
NEW YORK -- Does nudity
recognize a language barrier?
Nudity saturates our
culture. Yesterday at my local gay bar, each of the two-for-one
drink chits had a naked porn star on it. We see naked bodies in
the locker room, the life drawing class, in photos of death camps,
strippers, high art odalisque, the intimacy of a lover in the bath,
the anatomy textbook. And there's plenty of nudity in post-modern
dance. At times, the nudity in Daniel Leveille's "Amour, acide et
noix" (seen last week at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church)
suggests all those sites. Yet it is unlike any of them. The four
pale-skinned bodies (Frederic Boivin, David Kilburn, Ivana Milicevic
and Dave St-Pierre) are uncannily beautiful for one thing, lit by
Marc Parent against the creamy white columns of the church and its
glowing wooden floor.
These naked dancers
sift through a series of duets and solos, all with a liberal use
of stasis. One figure jumps suddenly, usually with great force,
to be caught in mid-air or pushed through space by a partner, for
an effect similar to a quartet seen in Brian Brooks's recent Streb-inflected work. Or the figures pose in
totemic, athletic stances, slowly curling into a fetal shell while
a variety of music (Vivaldi to Led Zeppelin) plays at a variety
of sound levels.
The paintings of Francis Bacon come to mind, wherein
riotous, anthropomorphic brushstrokes are made vulnerable by the
rigidity of their architectural framing. There's something clinical,
almost antiseptic, to the dancers' presence: intensely aware, yet
congenial, childlike, innocent.
Like the stripped insides
of a clock, the simple mechanics of the human body are revealed.
We see a machine made of levers, a computer made of meat. At times
the dancers simply stand, watching us as acutely as we're watching
them. Adopting a deceptive neutrality before crouching to pounce
Within this structure
they seem to need each other the way babies do. I see an affectionate
and funny duet for Kilburn and St-Pierre through the lens of being
the youngest of four brothers and something elusive and elemental
in me responds, a complex emotional reaction that leaves me clumsy
and inarticulate. On the walk home I analyze this atypical wordlessness.
I think maybe it is the dancers' remarkable blank serenity that
makes the work so powerful. Their unflinching vulnerability, so
unashamed, so unapologetic.
I am able to identify
two brief moments as the source of my feelings. Somewhere during
more than an hour of unnatural equilibrium, released into gravity,
held but not rigid, Milicevic allows her arm to dangle naturally
while in Boivin's arms. This response to the momentum of being caught
suddenly looks unbearably fragile. And in the men's duet mentioned
above, St-Pierre lifts his hands above his head to the much taller
Kilburn, like a toddler indicating, "Help me" or "Carry me."
Only the next morning
does the complex arrangement of feelings inside me clarify. I have
felt this before and am able to name it. It is heartbreak.
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