Husk: George Stamos on Wearing the Body
“You are a costume. You are wearing you. Thankfully, your genes were
only suggestions. You are an imperfect impersonation of an object and
you are wonderfully artificial,” says dancer George Stamos on his upcoming choreography for Husk, at the Agora de la danse Feb 8-11.
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A dancer, yoga practitioner and former New York party-boy, Nova Scotia-born George Stamos is on the cusp of some kind of Saturn’s return in 2012. With three different productions showing in 3 provinces between now and mid-February, one might say that he’s living a personal revival, of sorts. Since getting his BA from the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam in 1993, he has never stopped working as a dancer, choreographer, and performance artist, but the themes and intentions he speaks to for his three new pieces suggest a personal renewal in the making. Stamos is poised to take Montréal by storm with a riveting new piece, Husk, which will be shown for 3 nights at the Agora de la Danse, (but which he will not be dancing in himself).
Stamos has been preparing for – and simultaneously creating – two other works, including a duet for two men called LiklikPik, a tastey-sounding work he’s taken to Toronto’s Dancemakers about “the pig as a totem animal”, and the soulful Illegal Tender, in which he dances beside a projected video of himself – doing a lap-dance for the late Quentin Crisp. As many know from his famous Naked Civil Servant, and the moving 2009 biopic An Englishman in New York, Quentin Crisp was a famous flâneur and wit who spent his final years in a basement Manhattan apartment, passing away in 1999 at the age of 90. In 1996, the nubile Stamos convinced the famous dandy to be video-taped in exchange for some food, and notably, a lap-dance, and for 15 years the video evidence of the conversation sat on his shelf, waiting for the right inspired treatment. The contrast between the ailing fop and his sprightly interlocutor gets blurred when the live Stamos embodies a version of his present-day self, and realized (along the way) that Quentin was in fact speaking to George’s “future self” all along. The work premières at Regina’s Performatorium in this month, but George promises us he’ll show Illegal Tender somewhere in Montréal later this year.
Body vs. Husk
Evoking “an instinctual intelligence in the meat of the body, beyond the reasoning mind,” Husk is a live sound and performance piece for three dancers and Montréal musician and out lesbian, Jackie Gallant. Ostensibly about “being at peace with the fact that we’re completely fake sometimes,” Husk is part of a grand gay tradition wherein the word “fake” takes on a much more subtle significance. “Husk is in part looking into how we extend our physical self into the artificial: for example, spray tans, hair extensions, implants. It’s all about looking at the whole physical package we carry as a shell or ‘husk’ for the spirit,” he explains, adding, “and yes, we get crazy wild with costumes!”
Like some of the grotesque hair pieces from Husk which were used for the photoshoot with 2Bmag (by Cesar Ochoa), the props and costumes for George’s 3 dancers are ragged, cartoonish, and somewhat vulgar. Exaggerated foam body suits allow one of his dancers to change gender at one point in the show, eliciting uncanny feelings about authenticity and illusion.
“I absolutely love (dancers) Rachel Harris, Elinor Fueter, and Frédéric Marier, and jumped at the chance to work with them and Montréal Danse,” the renowned company who invited Stamos to be part of their 25th anniversay programme with Husk. “It’s great to work with a really buff guy like Fred,” Stamos continues, “his muscular physique and masculinity help bring out the gender issues in the work,” adding that Fueter, Harris, and collaborator Gallant “are all in their prime and really busting it in this piece!” You can’t blame a boy for looking, can you?
Preoccupations with the body, with the paradox of acceptance and dissociation in gay culture, are unabashedly at the core of Husk. “As a gay person, I think perhaps we’re more sensitive to how our physicality reveals our gender identity and our sexuality,” Stamos admits, trained in the sweat and glitter of the 90s voguing scene in NYC, as much as by any school of thought. “We’re perhaps more sensitive to terms like ‘straight acting’ and that lends an extra level of impact to our behaviour. Husk delves into this terrain: how do we WEAR our body, how do we present (ourselves) through our behaviour and our choices, who we ARE,” the dance veteran emotes, suggesting that oh-so-fluid understanding of the body that not many dancers can articulate. “I’m looking at how the body works as a container for the spirit and at the same time how instinct and the body’s capacity for healing or adaptability is undervalued.”
If that sounds like a lot of ideas, it is, but this isn’t dance for the intellectual spectator alone: Husk is going to make you and his performers twitch, sweat, shout, writhe, and hopefully triumph over the duality of our ideal body vs. the body we are ashamed of. One gets the sense that George Stamos is ready to share a whole lot of learnings from his recent and past lives in his trio of new works this year. At 42, he is “sitting in his body,” and tapping into its power in ways that seem destined to inspire, and impress.
Feb 8-10, 2012
Agora de la danse
840 rue Cherrier, Montréal (514-525-1500)