Canada Dance Festival 2012 in Review
July 17, 2012 | Nudity.Desire by Benjamin Kamino – Review by Kathleen Hicks, O'Brien Arts Centre, Happy-Valley Goose Bay, NL
As a member of the Atlantic Presenters Association Atlantic Moves program I was able to attend the 2012 Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa, and had the privilege of seeing a lot of wonderful contemporary dance, as well as participate in some excellent professional development organized by Ontario Dances and the Atlantic Presenters Association.
The Ontario Dances presentations of note were the History of Contemporary Dance by Amy Bowring with Dance Collection Danse, and the Critical Repsonse Workshop by Eric Olmsheid and Steve Busa. Both presentations were practical and have direct application to the programming at the O’Brien Arts Centre. The Atlantic Presenters Association was able to give Atlantic Moves members the opportunity to meet with several choreographers/dance artists and discuss their work in person. For a new theatre space participating as an emerging dance presenter, it was invaluable to have the personal contact with these artists.
One of the artists was Benjamin Kamino - Do What You Can, who presented Nudity.Desire on Thursday June 14 at La Nouvelle Scene. He spoke to the Atlantic Moves group on Wednesday and the following is a review of his piece. Although this work is not suitable for the rural ‘emerging’ audience in Labrador, I think he is a definite possibility for a residency where he could create a work related to the rural northern setting where nature plays a dominant role. I feel, having seen his work and appreciating his intellectual commitment to his creative process, that he would both enjoy the challenge of working in our northern environment. We hope to engage him sometime in the future.
Benjamin Kamino’s piece, Nudity.Desire, was engaging, thought provoking, and obviously well researched. His comment to us about ‘running around the stage naked and screaming’ was modest and understated.
In my description of his work I have taken phrases from his program notes, hence all the quotation marks.
Kamino takes the concept of nudity by philosopher Giorgio Agamben whose claim “was that the first nudity in Genesis was the point where humanity acquired its capability for knowledge”. Kamino’s work equates the nude body as one “that discovers its ability for language and its desire for communication” and he blends this concept with research into “the power relationship between desire and the construction of identity”. He describes his work as a ‘reverse-striptease’ with the “short moment of the Fall when the two original bodies discovered they were nude and clothed themselves” being the “thin threshold between grace and spectatorship”. Kamino perceives that this is “our first entry into language which coincides with the “first time desire was felt in humanity”. His dance was successful in its integration of these thoughts.
His set consisted of large strips of white paper taped together covering the entire floor and up a plywood wall filling the back of the stage. Later we find that under the white paper there was a layer of brown paper. A small rectangular red and silver cassette tape player held together with tape was on floor stage right back. There were clothes (brown pants and a navy blue t-shirt), plus a bowl and a spoon, stage left front partly on the white paper and partly off.
The audience was held outside until all attendees were present and only then were we permitted to enter and take our seats. Kamino was already dancing to music (David Axelrod, Taj Mahal, Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think) in full bright light, his long hair loose and unrestrained, skipping freely, graceful and lightly with abandonment. He continued without engaging with the audience for several minutes until all were seated and then several minutes more. Then he stopped and stood very still stage left front and cast his wondering gaze slowly and systematically through every row of the audience - back and forth , making eye contact with every single person. This took several minutes, after which he turned around back on and stood perfectly still, breathing deeply, again for another few minutes. Then he turned around front a second time and repeated his slow observation of the audience maintaining a look of serious wonderment in his eyes, but an expressionless face. His nakedness, despite two tattoos on his torso and one on each arm, was beautiful and somehow exuded innocence.
The next few minutes of his dance were the most memorable for me - for the ingenuity and for the effectiveness in portraying the “unveiling of a divine grace” - the body discovering its nudity. Kamino faced the audience still stage left front, and very slowly leaned backwards arching his torso, his head disappearing from view and held this for five to ten seconds. As he returned to normal upright stance he relaxed his mouth open to release copious amounts of black ink which ran down his chin, neck, torso, groin, thighs, calves, feet and onto the floor, creating rivers and a pattern on his body and on the floor. ( I believe he must have held a black tablet in his mouth from the moment we entered the theatre collecting saliva in his mouth, and holding it to dissolve the tablet.) Just as the last of the ink trickled from his lips, his movements became wild and frantic, travelling around the white paper leaving ink smudges as he danced. He ended up travelling behind the back wall of white paper until he was centre back. His movements made the paper dance although we could not see him, and a few moments later he burst through the paper, ripping the back wall, and wearing white underwear.
He danced with the paper, tearing the rest of the back wall down, ripping up the floor, turning it into clothing, wrapping himself in it, vocalizing loud moans and wordless laments. The brown pants were dragged along with the paper and he disappeared into the centre of the massive twist of paper and emerged dressed in the pants. He dragged the bundle of white paper off to one side leaving the brown paper stage covering.
The dance continued with Kamino stopping the music, dismantling his cassette player, dragging one naked speaker attached with a wire to centre stage. He also took a large stick of charcoal and traced himself onto the back wall, another time tracing himself on the floor. Later he drew a giant tree on the back wall to the right of his charcoal silhouette.
The dance ended after fifty minutes with Kamino singing a few phrases of lyrics. His voice was pure and uplifting, and the lights dim. We are left feeling enriched and somehow enlightened, and I felt as though I had witnessed something beautiful , but I couldn’t really say exactly what it was.
More about Atlantic Moves:
Atlantic Moves is a three-year pilot project of the Atlantic Presenters Association. Funded jointly by the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts, in addition to the Province of Nova Scotia, Atlantic Moves aims to increase the number of contemporary dance performances in Atlantic Canada. We aim accomplish this through the education of our presenters by way of professional development, attendance at dance conferences and most importantly, seeing live dance in performance. Nine presenters from across Atlantic Canada have been chosen to participate.
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