The Land of Occasional Nudity
If you haven’t sixty-nined a French horn, you haven’t lived. Photo by Javier Felipe Castellanos.
The Land of Fuck (a fable) is the newest work by Toronto-based modern dance company The Dietrich Group. The show’s title, not to mention its aggressively sexual, in-your-face poster campaign, might lead you to think you’re in for a balls-out, filthy, kinky, confrontational piece that explodes sexual mores and bombards you with naked bodies.
What you actually get is far more tame.
Described by director/choreographer D.A. Hoskins as a meditation on the changing significance of everyone’s favourite four-letter word, The Land of Fuck uses a large company of dancers and a series of visually-compelling scenarios to explore this idea. We think. To be perfectly frank, making the connection between a lot of what we saw and sex (or sexuality? or the word “fuck”?) was a difficult and mostly unrewarding job; it’s much more enjoyable to simply sit back and watch the talented dancers and the shapes they create with their bodies.
The piece begins with Andrew Bathory alone on stage in the gorgeous auditorium of the Workman Arts Theatre, which has been filled to the brim with haze. A picture of a baby in utero is projected on the wall behind him, and the other dancers begin a joyous, riotous entry into the space, pulling up a series of wooden dividers and letting in light. If this is meant to represent birth, that much we got. Bathory is often at the centre of the action: in a segment just after this, he announces birth statistics about the other performers along with memorable facts about them; later, he will speak into a microphone asking them how they are feeling; still later, he and Danielle Baskerville perform a memorable pas de deux in red tights. Other sequences include a strange brass instrument music class, the painting of “X” across the butt cheeks of most of the male performers, and, most successfully, the painstaking application of single sheets of blue tissue paper (with glue-sticks, obviously) to the auditorium floor, creating a brief, beautiful dance floor that is immediately and unavoidably destroyed.
And yes, there is of course some sexy stuff in there. A couple of the dancers get their kit off, there’s some simulated humping and plenty of suggestive interaction (not to mention the above-pictured French horn sixty-nine-ing), but it’s really just par for the course for a modern dance show (particularly one by The Dietrich Group). But if you can get over feeling cheated of the shock and titillation promised by the poster, there’s some lovely stuff to look at here, and some great performers. We were particularly impressed by Mariana Medellin-Meinke, who somehow pulls off incredible fluidity and kinesthetic awareness while wearing ridiculous strappy gold high heels, and can also whip the meanest top ponytail since this.
The Land of Fuck? Maybe more like The Land of Occasional Nudity. But there’s still lots here to make you forget about the blast of winter outside.
The Land of Fuck (a fable) runs at the Workman Arts Theatre (651 Dufferin Street) until March 27, $25 ($20 for students/seniors/CADA) and PWYC Saturday matinee.