Sensual, playful and instinctual, 7 Pleasures is an appeal to contagious, liberating hedonism. A feast of the senses where the naked body asserts its rightful place.
They number 12, or maybe one, their naked bodies touching, connecting, exulting. Together, they are movement. A fascinating human tide surges forth alluringly in what looks like an everyday setting. The most basic pleasures assert their rightful place in 7 Pleasures by Danish choreographer Mette Ingvartsen, making her Canadian début. A delightful feast of the senses for an informed audience.
At a time when all sorts of promises of pleasure are on offer, are we masters of our bodies and our desires? With her dozen naked dancers forming improbable constellations, Ingvartsen questions our conditioning and assumptions about sexuality. In an undulating mass of organic matter, dancers pulsate to hypnotic percussion, convulsions, moaning and sensual play. Sexual but far from pornographic, the very lack of seduction is surprisingly subversive; this highly sensuous experience destabilizes. Its meticulously composed beauty elevates nudity to a grand mystery of life.
Produced by Mette Ingvartsen / Great Investment
Concept and choreography Mette Ingvartsen
Performed by Johanna Chemnitz + Katja Dreyer + Bruno Freire + Elias Girod + Gemma Higginbotham (replacing Marie Ursin) + Dolores Hulan + Calixto Neto (replacing Ligia Lewis) + Danny Neyman + Norbert Pape + Pontus Pettersson + Manon Santkin (replacing Sirah Foighel Brutmann) + Hagar Tenenbaum
Lighting design Minna Tiikkainen
Music and soundtrack Peter Lenaerts
Orignal music Will Guthrie including Breaking Bones + Snake Eyes
Set design Mette Ingvartsen + Minna Tikkainen
Dramaturgy Bojana Cvejić
Choreography Assistant Manon Santkin
Lighting design Assistant Nadja Räikkä
Technical directors Joachim Hupfer + Nadja Räikkä
Sound technician Adrien Gentizon
Manager Kerstin Schroth
Production Assistant Manon Haase
Co-produced by steirischer herbst festival (Graz) + Kaaitheater (Brussels) + HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin) + Théatre National de Bretagne (Rennes) + Festival d’Automne (Paris) + Les Spectacles vivants – Centre Pompidou (Paris) + PACT Zollverein (Essen) + Dansens Hus (Oslo) + Tanzquartier Wien + Kunstencentrum BUDA (Kortrijk) + BIT Teatergarasjen (Bergen) + Dansehallerne (Copenhagen)
With the support of Flemish Authorities + Hauptstadtkulturfonds (Berlin) + Danish Arts Council
Research and residency supported by APAP through the support of Culture Programme of the European Union
Presented in association with Usine C
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at steirischer herbst, Graz, on September 26, 2015
Mette Ingvartsen (Copenhagen + Brussels)
Audacity, research and transcendence. Mette Ingvartsen, a graduate of the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (P.A.R.T.S.) in Brussels, opens up surprising spaces in contemporary dance.
The Danish choreographer has performed in pieces by Xavier Le Roy and Boris Charmatz, and creates a sensation with her own works that repurpose choreography, taking it to ever grander, more distant heights. In solos or ensembles or in installations devoid of any human presence, her art of movement may place perceptions and sensations of nature in the spotlight (The Artificial Nature Project, 2012), or take the form of a carnal ode or sensual anthropology (69 positions, 2014). Ingvartsen’s repertoire has attracted much attention in major European contemporary arts festivals over the past 15 years.
Invited to perform for the first time in North America by the FTA, she continues to pursue her research on affects and feelings that she began in her most recent projects – IT’S IN THE AIR, GIANT CITY and evaporated landscapes. The second component of the The Red Pieces cycle, which explores perceptions of the body and nudity, 7 Pleasures questions individual and collective points of physical connection. After 69 positions, a solo where she was nude amidst a crowd of spectators, Ingvartsen now invests sexuality, eroticism and pleasure with power, a vital and rejuvenating force that surpasses conventional imagery. Questioning our free will in a society that incessantly capitalizes and manipulates desire, her new cycle of work invites us to reinvent our ways of being together, to physically form one body.
In 7 Pleasures you explore notions of sexuality and nudity by playing with our perceptions of the body. What was your inspiration for this piece?
Nudity was an element of my initial works. In 2003 I presented a trio entitled Manual Focus, where I worked on the materiality of the body. It was followed by choreographies for non-human performers and materials, which later led to the first scene of 7 Pleasures where our bodies are imagined as a material enveloping objects in space.
That extreme proximity of bodies evolved from questioning how we relate to public and private spaces. Sexuality is normally part of the private sphere, but what we have now is extensive circulation of images of naked bodies and pornographic images that blur those boundaries. The challenge for me was how to work with nude bodies onstage without reproducing the imagery we see all around us. How has the proliferation of representations of nudity changed our private, intimate and sexual life?
The piece conveys real freedom in the way the performers undress and touch each other in suggestions of sexual poses. Does that reflect a desire to revive the sexually freed energy of the 1960s?
The initial title was Time for Another Sexual Revolution! In a world where persistent sexism and increasingly ardent conservative policies prevail, I think it is important to propose other ways of living together. In the ’60s there was a long list of causes worth fighting for. Nowadays the rapport between the body, nudity, sexuality and politics is much more complex.
Our capitalist society conditions our bodies by means of imagery. Our bodies are constantly being solicited by external forces such as advertising, which exerts control over our feelings and desires, including sexual desire. 7 Pleasures experiments with modifying physical relations based on that sort of manipulation by reproducing, in a different way, gestures imprisoned by conventions.
You chose to anchor the sexual behaviours of your dancers in a realistic décor and to have them play with everyday objects. Why?
I like to take something I observe in society and expose it so as to create an effect of strangeness. Today pleasure is all around us. For example, smart phones are designed to give tactile sensations that make us dependent on touch, on physical contact with the object. In this piece we imagined that humans might not be the only ones to experience pleasure. We sought to change our own bodies, our own feelings and sensations, in order to decentralize the idea that pleasure belongs only to humans, to show that sexuality is omnipresent in all sorts of relationships, and not only among human beings.
That is why I worked with everyday objects – a table, a chair, a plant – rather than with sexual objects. It allows us to feel our bodies differently in domestic spaces that are familiar to one and all. Everyone knows what a chair or a sofa is for, but we make them do something else, thereby destabilizing and upending our understanding of the body in the physical environment we live in.
By bringing together 12 naked, anonymous bodies, and also giving the immediate surroundings and objects roles in the piece, are you seeking to abolish hierarchy?
This is an ensemble piece, not a solo performance. The choreography is based on a principle where all bodies are equal, even if there are differences within the group. Today’s social media encourage self-exposure and producing images of oneself, even though in the end all those images look alike! The idea here was to cancel self-expression in favour of that of the group.
The show does not deal with the personal desires of the dancers, but with representations of the body in our society. We’re trying to invent a community that behaves differently. The stage offers an opportunity to transform things and perceptions. I hope it gives people ideas about physical behaviour beyond clichés and conventions, a way of looking at images of nudity from a new perspective.
“A joyous yet, at times, disturbing journey in exploration of the notions of nudity, body politics and sexual practice.”
Gabriella Daris, Blouinartinfo.com, 2016-02-01
“7 Pleasures builds up progressively, one sequence at a time (…) and ends in a collective groan that leaves the audience transfixed.”
Philippe Noisette, Les Inrocks, 2015-11-13
“The twelve dancers are brilliant; full of intensity they present nothing but experience on the stage. And Mette Ingvartsen proves once again to be a choreographer who puts the pleasure of sensual precision in the center of her artistic output.”
Elisabeth Nehring, Deutschlandradio Kultur, 2015-09-26