Experimental Theater, Taipei
November 16, 2019
Mette Ingvartsen talks of how she believes we are always surrounded by images of sexualised bodies, no matter where we look; and how erotic images, texts and sounds influence the way we move. Her to come (extended), the fourth piece of a series called The Red Pieces, continues her look at sexuality in the public sphere, specifically the influence on people of naked and sexualized bodies. My only response was to muse that the nudity actually didn’t matter. What to come (extended) does do however, and after a bit of a haul, is leave you with a smile on your face.
Like most of Ingvartsen’s work, there’s nudity. The sexuality is explicit. It is confronting in the sense that it’s obvious that you can’t avoid it, but is it discomforting? Not in the least. She may be over-egging the idea that we are constantly surrounded by erotic images but that fact that they are not unusual and that having lots of naked bodies on stage is hardly new, makes it all rather unexciting. It’s also desperately polite.
The opening 25 minutes has the entire cast in identical head-to-toe, one-piece, skin-tight, turquoise body suits designed by by Jennifer Defays. They look striking on the white floor against the white backdrop. In silence, broken only by the occasional squeak of a body on the floor, they form a series of sculptural groups. They are human but not human.
Quite often, it does suggest an orgy, and among this series of Greek friezes are occasional erotic positions. A bit of a wrestling match comes as a surprise, and a few smacked bottoms raises the odd titter, but once you’ve got the idea (which doesn’t take long), it’s all desperately monotonous.
In a break, the performers peel off their suits and don white socks and sneakers. Now against a turquoise backdrop, for five long minutes the now nude cast form up and give us a long series of the sort of ‘oohs’ and ‘arrs’ that might come with sexual intercourse. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yes,” they go. To say it was tedious would be an understatement.
But wait! Relief was at hand. To Louis Prima’s classic Sing, Sing, Sing, the dancers launch into loose lindy-hop steps. It’s gawky and sometimes looks awkward. Bob Fosse it is not. But as they revel in their freedom, the energy ramps up. The dancers smile at each other and the audience as they bounce to the music’s rhythms (their private parts do a lot of bouncing too).
It is infectious, but does this change in mood have anything to do with their nakedness? Quite honestly, it is neither here nor there. There’s also very little in the way of the claimed examination of the body, sexualities and pleasures. What to come (extended) does show is how much we rely on seeing bodies (clothed or not) and especially faces to communicate.
As the light fades, Ingvartsen and her cast bring down the curtain and send you away far happier than seemed possible 30 minutes earlier.
This is the second time this Dancing in Autumn season that nudity and sexual acts have featured in performances. It’s also the second time it’s been at least dull in part, although to come (again) – and I can’t help suspecting there’s an intended pun in there – is light years ahead of the Su Pin-wen’s (蘇品文) earlier and quite dreadful Ń hēng (嗯哼) in every way. Dance has been here before and far from moving the art form on, it sometimes feels like turning the clock back several decades. Sometimes, you despair.