Dave St-Pierre Company, Sadler's Wells, London
Monday 06 June 2011
How do you establish yourself as an enfant terrible?
Canadian choreographer Dave St-Pierre takes the well-worn route of nudity. Dancers pounce on members of the audience, naked men waggling their genitalia in people's faces. This is much less ground-breaking than St-Pierre seems to think it is.
For these British performances, Sadler's Wells translates Un Peu de Tendresse Bordel de Merde! with the primly bowdlerised A Little Tenderness for Crying Out Loud!. The show starts with clothed dancers already in the auditorium. Men get in your way as you try to sit down. The women are more detached, lounging up and down the aisles. On stage, a naked man in a long blonde wig giggles and chatters in a falsetto voice.
Once the lights go down, a woman starts to harangue the audience, promising us a discomforting evening.
A cynical presence, she's most entertaining when she's talking about the show itself. When she interacts with the other performers, she becomes less interesting, inflicting predictable humiliations.
There are plenty of those. Putting their clothes back on, the men stand in a line, repeatedly slapping their own faces, their cheeks reddening. St-Pierre's scenes of embarrassment don't tell us what drives these people. The idea of "a little tenderness" is obvious: people hurting each other as they seek some connection. Yet both the hurt and the tenderness are by rote.
While St-Pierre is working hard at being scandalous, he uses gender stereotypes so casually that I wonder if he's noticed them. His use of male nudity tends to be comic. A dozen naked men put on blonde wigs and squeak through baby talk. When the women take their clothes off, it's much more about display and vulnerability.
Each time the dancers jump into the audience, it's the men who confront the spectators, climbing over the seats, demanding a response. The women perform unconvincing catfights in the aisles, stealing each other's dresses. St-Pierre might be making a point about the way men and women behave in society, but it looks more accidental than that. Perhaps he just thinks willies are funnier.
The piece ends with a moment of innocence. Naked dancers splash and slide in spilled water. The happy ending, the water, even the Arvö Part music are familiar dance theatre devices. For an enfant terrible, St-Pierre is very conventional.
Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act
Arts & Ents blogs
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: It is still gloriously silly
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
Eurovision 2015: What date and time is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
Indiana Jones sequel confirmed by Lucasfilm - but will Harrison Ford return to the franchise?
How the Other Half Eat, Channel 4 - TV review: Swapping food trolleys shows how food and class are closely connected
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils