NEW YORK CITY | It’s difficult to talk about Pâquerette without going into graphic terms. François Chaignaud, from France, and Cecilia Bengolea, from Argentina, sit on the floor, as audience members file in and take their seats. Their attires, she in royal blue and he in golden fabric, make them looked regal and grand. Except that they sit on no thrones, and the floor space they occupy at Brooklyn’s Invisible Dog Art Center is bare and gleaming white.
In the theater we say that if nothing happens in the first 10 or 15 minutes, the rest of the show is never going to improve. That is certainly not the case here because of the big reveal that takes place soon after Chaignaud and Bengolea slither across the floor and squirm their bodies out of their drapey garments. At first there is a long and uncomfortable silence. The two dancer-choreographers make eye contact with some members of the audience. They smile some half-smiles. Later they moan and groan. Soon after, they crawl into awkward positions and trade places while sliding on top of each other’s bodies as they move upstage center.
Voila! They hoist their pelves onto the air to show off crystal sex toys inserted in their buttocks and shimmering underneath the bright lamp lights. After grabbing our attention, the piece moves through a languid series of exhibitionist displays that invite us to see how the intimate imposition of an external object affect male and female bodies in movement.
Is it a penetrating dance, or is it simply a dance with penetrating elements? Certainly Pâquerette is not complex as a work of choreography. It is more about picturing strain and sensuality, about laying bare the pressures and pleasures of penetrated dancing bodies.
In the program notes, Chaignaud and Bengolea state that Pâquerette delves into what they call “a reflection on the denial of the anus in dance.” These two dancer-choreographers have been working together since 2005. They had actually presented Pâquerette at Dancepace Project in October 2010 along with another piece, Sylphides, which prominently featured sensory-deprivation bags. Their pieces, in other words, deal with aspects of physical beauty arising from pain, confinement, ungainly struggle or some form of limitation on freedom.
In Pâquerette Chaignaud and Bengolea work very hard to execute their dance-movements effortlessly. They could have gone down the path of blatant eroticism, but they do not. They don’t mine the sexual humor either. Instead they go at it seriously: affectionately exploring ways to interact with each other, touching upon the levels of sensations that their bodies can accommodate, and inviting audiences to pay attention to their own relationships to a part of the human body that is surrounded by powerful taboos.
Presented within the framework of a Queer New York International Arts Festival, Pâquerette comes off as curious in a couple of other respects. “Queer” is often perceived within the framework of same-sex identities, and yet Pâquerette normalizes the sense of queer danger since it foregrounds an intimate play between a man and a woman. The title, translated from the French, is “daisy.” (It also refers to a 19th century ballet.) I think it is too easy to say that Pâquerette had more to do with deflowering. It would also be too glib to state that Pâquerette‘s sense of subversion, within the parameters of a queer ideology, offers “new possibilities for the queer body,” as festival curator André von Ah suggests.
Pâquerette is a duet between a man and a woman who re-discover their childlike innocence through the intensities of penetration. The most touching moments of Pâquerette happen in the third section when their bodies are released from the pressure of external objects. Fingering each other in the manner of a puppeteer, Chaignaud and Bengolea run around the space in circles. Then, their backs turned against each other, they take turns leaping gracefully into the air; their buttocks rub softly on top of each other. The performance moves from the shock of penetration to become an intercrural pas de deux.
It’s a disarmingly poetic image. I don’t think this is about subversion or queer radicalism or anarchism. It’s about making playful parallels between the tensions experienced by male and female bodies, about our becoming more aware of what we are capable of as sexual creatures. It’s about the courage to play rough until we achieve a state of fragility and naiveté.
François Chaignaud & Cecilia Bengolea (France, Argentina) – Paquerette
Thursday and Friday, June 14 and 15, at 8:00pm
Co-presented by Chez Bushwick, The Invisible Dog Art Center and Queer New York International
Tickets: $10 (suggested donation)
Limited seating. reservation required: simon [at] theinvisibledog [dot] org
The Invisible Dog Art Center
51 Bergen Street (between Smith and Court Streets), Brooklyn
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