Choreographer Hari Krishnan presents Skin & Quicksand, a provocative dance performance in Toronto
In dance, as in poetry, I assume that every choice has meaning. In a novel or a musical, I might chalk certain things up to “that’s pretty,” but the more complex and nuanced a form, the more I expect that everything I see has a purpose, and my job is to understand it. This is how I found myself — at midnight, after a two-part dance performance at Buddies in Bad Times in which nine very athletic men leapt and danced about for an hour wearing outfits ranging from very little to almost nothing — researching mudras, the vocabulary of hand gestures employed in classical Indian dance.
Skin & Quicksand are both dances made by Hari Krishnan, an Indo-Canadian choreographer and as accomplished a homoeroticist as I’ve seen in recent memory. With a lot of skin on display and specifically queer themes, the Buddies audience may have come for the nearly-naked boys, but there was more than that to enjoy. I’ll be honest, of the pieces, Quicksand was my strong favorite. I liked Skin enough, and certainly all of the dancers acquitted themselves admirably, but it didn’t stir me nearly as much as Quicksand did, even considering the extended, and very appealing, naked shower dancing by an admirably robust Gerry King. It seemed a bit more like a series of interesting snapshots than a coherent piece — more installation than anything else. At the end of Skin, Toronto dance power-couple Jelani and Sze-Yang Ade Lam were revealed in the audience, wrapped in a fervent embrace, and showered with actual rose petals, which I wanted to adore but couldn’t quite make a case for in my head, I’m afraid, even if it was nice to look at.
Quicksand, however, really satisfied me. Perhaps because it was layered with so many vocabularies of movement — from the aforementioned mudras to ball culture to martial arts to other things that probably went right past me — and the individual and collective beats of creating and undoing. The dancers were each showcased to the best of their abilities individually, and then blended back with the group with notable fluidity.
I didn’t quite understand the choice to have the only two black cast members present the devotional image of Mother Theresa while the rest of the cast, mostly white, danced around them.
I also enjoyed the decision, during Quicksand, to have all of the dancers visible at all times, even if they were not dancing. It made for some really wonderful tableaux, including a moment I’m sure was unscripted but was among my favorites: seasoned dancer Gerry King sitting stretched out on the floor, perfectly still sharing a stray shaft of light with the very young and vigorous Matt Owen as he bounced very slightly along with the music. It seemed to perfectly echo the neverending cycle of emotion that Quicksand showcases, and it added to the volumes that Quicksand already speaks.
- Skin & Quicksand is playing at Buddies In Bad Times, 12 Alexander Street, until 24 May.
- Shows are at 8 pm.
- Tickets are $37 and can be purchased online or by calling the Buddies box office at 416.975.8555
Photo by Miles Brokenshire