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Very few performances leave me in a state of discomfort; even fewer render me speechless. I have never considered myself conservative or prudish, but I found myself reacting with awkward body twitches to compensate for my unease after viewing Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido’s Still Standing You. From the not-so-discreet genitalia groping to stage curtains being used to wipe moisture from sweaty bodies, the duo delivered a complex interpretation of friendship and male bonding.
Ampe and Garrido pushed their bodies to physical extremes. Upon entering the theater, the audience saw Ampe lying on the floor with his legs in the air. Garrido sat atop Ampe’s feet and casually engaged with the audience. Ampe was visibly uncomfortable: He grimaced, moaned, and smacked the floor with his hands, begging to be released from the pressure of Garrido’s weight.
Both men used their bodies as architectural edifices, foundational platforms, playthings, and vehicles for making the audience uncomfortable in their carefully orchestrated physical ordeal. Ampe and Garrido roughhoused their way into a sumptuous investigation of sadomasochism, pleasure, and masculinity — and how these all play out — using contemporary dance.
Simply attired in jeans, a t-shirt (Ampe) or a tank top (Garrido), and sneakers, these men were blank canvases. At the same time, their bearded faces were constant reminders of their machismo, serving to override — or at least challenge — the audience’s perception of homoeroticism.
A guttural soundscape
Fifteen minutes into the piece, they removed their clothing and paraded their willing bodies before an audibly shocked crowd. They tugged, slapped and tended to each other. Before long, they were drenched in liquid proof of their rambunctious exchange. Moment after moment, they fed the audience tasty morsels of memorable interactions — genitalia in hand, underwear in mouth, derriere in face, and the drawing of a heart on the back of Ampe — with each morsel accompanied by throaty grunts that acted as the soundscape.
They touched violently.
They screamed vociferously.
They shoved blithely.
They carried each other affectionately.
They embraced tenderly.
Still Standing You was comedic, sensitive, and aggressive. The Belgian–Portuguese duo brutishly navigated a landmine of boyish tomfoolery and hostile power play as they quietly bowed and silently asked the question, “Did our naked bodies say it all?”
What, When, Where
Still Standing You. Pieter Ampe, Guilherme Garrido, CAMPO. September 9-11, 2015, at the Painted Bride, 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia. Part of the 2015 Fringe Festival. fringearts.com or 215-413-1318.
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