Still Standing You: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

Brianna McFarlane

You need to have an open mind in order to appreciate the beauty found in Still Standing You, a two man original collaboration, composed and performed by Belgian Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido from Portugal, currently part of the NAC’s newest experimental dance initiative, Face2Face.

Showcasing for the first time ever at Arts Court, NAC Dance Producer Cathy Levy has put together a small festival geared towards showcasing pieces that fall slightly outside the definition of contemporary dance. It aims to bring in choreography and styles from all around the world and this year they have specifically chosen to focus on duets.   While some may find it hard to define Still Standing You as even dancing, you cannot deny the physical prowess and the impressive choreography of the two performers.

The two men are already sitting in place, Pieter on his back, legs extended 90 degrees and Gui sitting on Pieter’s feet, when the audience enters the theatre. The empty black box stage is lit solely by four floor lights. Only their bodies are used as the performers take the audience on a journey of self-exploration through inter-male relationships.  There is little to no dialogue and absolutely no music. The soundscape is an odd mixture of grunting, breathing, groaning and even hissing and probably why most people had a hard time considering this piece to be dance theatre. In the end, Pieter and Guilherme literally bare all and leave their hearts and souls (not to mention spit and sweat) on the stage.

These guys hold nothing back. Through a series of mini vignettes, the show explores how some platonic relationships can be incredibly intimate and fulfilling and at the same time be the most brutal. We see the actors whip each other with belts, throw each other across the stage, and even twist each other’s foreskins (which incited many uncomfortable laughs from the audience), yet these shocking moments are contrasted with a number of images that are not only physically impressive but visually stunning: an assisted crab walk where the actors transition seamlessly into a pieta position (a famous Catholic image: Mary holding the dead body of Jesus after taking him down from the cross)nearly brought tears to my eyes.

I think what’s great about this piece is that it doesn’t try to be something that it’s not. It doesn’t concern itself with typical genres or standardized conventions. It just is. It is the physical embodiment of Pieter and Guillherme’s own relationship and I, for one, am very glad to have witnessed such a genuine and intimate performance. Though the actors were completely nude, it is in my opinion that the show was neither overtly sexual nor vulgar. Their choreography suggests an immense trust in one another (such as when Pieter is walking on the sides of Gui’s feet or grabbing the other actor’s “junk”) and it’s hard to imagine anyone else being able to perform this show.

I would categorize Still Standing You as a piece of performance art: I left the theatre feeling uncomfortable, shocked, yet oddly touched; its political idea was clear (does nudity negate eroticism?); and it did these things on stage that I had never seen before.  From this I can easily say that it was one of the most interesting and thought provoking performances I have ever been to in my life.

Still Standing You Feb 6 to 9 at Arts Court

Choreography and dance by Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido

Outside eye: Louise Van Den Eede and Rita Natálio

Produced by CAMPO arts centre

Technical Director: Ted Forbes