Public/Private Parts ou L’Origine du monde
Gerard X Reyes surrounds himself with artists, sex workers and educators who, like him, question the body and its representations. In a work midway between performance and video installation, the senses are aroused and tongues loosened.
What do a contemporary dancer, a sex worker, and a sex therapist have in common? How can we transcend the boundaries between art and pornography, between public and private spaces? Choreographer and dancer Gerard X Reyes, who unsettled us in 2018 with The Principle of Pleasure, is back, this time surrounded by like-minded individuals investigating the body and its practices. Without a doubt, another indelible experience awaits us.
The sounds of breathing can be heard, nude figures emerge before us. The bodies rejoice, explore each other, dance… The audience is urged to open up their imagination to a highly sensory journey. Artists, sex workers, and educators come together in the space and on screen, discussing intimacy and consent: key issues in this critical moment of reckoning with notions of gender and freedom. In a kind and caring atmosphere, the audience is faced with its limits, its prudishness. The body without borders.
Produced by Gerard X Reyes
Choreographed and performed by Gerard X Reyes
Performed by Justin Gionet + Emmanuel Proulx
Research Assistant Andréane Leclerc
Dramaturgical Advisor Guy Cools
Music Bendik Giske + Devon Bate
Sound Design Devon Bate
Sound spatialization Dominic Jasmin
Props Design Jasmine Reimer
Technical Director and Lighting Design Karine Gauthier
Voice Coach Ann Dyer
Production Directors Elisa Hengen + Lucie Juneau + Alice Renucci
Produced, directed, performed, editing and interviews by Gerard X Reyes
Codirected by Poppy Sanchez
Performed by Bishop Black + Jasko Fide + JorgeTheObscene (aka Jorge Benavides) + Rebecca Jackson + Mara Morgen
Director of Photography and Lighting Kevin Klein
Camera Jara Lopez Ballonga
Sound RecordingAntonio Vilchez Monge
Set Design Jasmine Reimer
Set Design Assistant Kaitlyn Smeeth
Editing Julie Favreau
Sound Design Devon Bate
Color Correction Max Hilsamer
Transcription and translation Ingrid Vallus
Video installation, projection and programming Stéphane Gladyszewski
Lighting and Sound Operator for interviews David J. Romero
Branding and Design Vina Goh
Website Developer Valentin Tsatskin
Communication Director Thomas Giboudeaux
Community Manager Tiah Coxon
Video, photos, editing and Spanish translator Juan David Padilla
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques
With the support of Goethe-Institut Montréal + Diffusion Hector-Charland + Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques
Creative residencies Fabrik Potsdam + Tanzfabrik Berlin + Tanzhaus Zürich + Grand Studio (Brussells) + Espace Marie Chouinard + Par B.L.eux + José Navas/Compagnie Flak + MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) + Département de danse de l’UQAM + Musée d’art de Joliette
Presented by Fugues in association with Agora de la danse + Tangente
Written by Diane Jean
Translated by Luba Markovskaia
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on June 10, 2021
Gerard X Reyes (Montreal)
Choreographer and dancer Gérard X Reyes is a pillar of Montreal’s kiki ballroom scene. As a dancer, he has worked with some of the greats: Benoît Lachambre, Bill T. Jones, Luther Brown, Noémie Lafrance.
Between 2006 and 2013, he was a member of the Compagnie Marie Chouinard, performing in Orphée et Eurydice (FTA 2008), Le sacre du printemps, bODY_rEMIX: les_vARIATIONS_gOLDBERG, among other productions.
For his part in the movie adaptation of the latter, he received the Gemini Award for Best Performance. In 2013, he moved to New York to study voguing with renowned masters such as Amazon Leiomy Maldonado, Archie Burnett, and Danielle Polanco. He envisioned a solo inspired by Vogue as well as by the patrons of Citibar, a Montreal nightclub and a regular haunt of the transgender community. The ensuing performance, The Principle of Pleasure, was first shown in its shorter version at the Toronto Rhubarb Festival in 2014, as well as in New York and in Porto that same year, and later staged at Théâtre La Chapelle in 2015 and presented at the FTA in 2017, before touring Toronto, Zurich, Lausanne, and Berlin.
Reyes began investigating the social similarities between sex workers and dancers, while simultaneously obtaining a certificate from the Somatic Sex Education Center in Australia. This allowed him to become an intimacy consultant, safely and delicately supporting the creation of intimate or sexual scenes in plays and movies. These two components come together to form the foundation of Public/Private Parts ou L’Origine du monde.
What has changed since The Principle of Pleasure, presented at the FTA in 2018?
There has been a whole process of development, understanding, and investigation. I conducted research on the public and private aspects of the body, from a sociological as well as a physical and philosophical standpoint. In 2017, I had just returned from Berlin, where I had sought out a new community, with new ideas on the naked body in various spaces. In our society, here in Quebec, we are used to seeing naked people only in the context of intimacy. Sometimes, we see them on stage or in strip clubs, but that is quite rare. Whereas in Germany, there is a tradition of being naked on beaches as well as in bars, with no sexual or intimate connotation to the nudity. But there is also a very open-minded atmosphere in public spaces, where people can be nude and share very intimate things—not necessarily in an exhibitionist way, but because they don’t have the same preconceptions around the body and the boundaries between public and private spheres. I lived there for two years and was able to observe to what extent society, artists, sex workers, and sex educators there take part in a true investigation, as pioneers of sensual and sexual research.
I met people who have greatly inspired me in Berlin. I wanted to learn from them, and they shared their practice with me. They are now part of the video component of the show. This was the only way I could envision integrating people who do not work in theatre or in performance arts in galleries or venues, who have another lifestyle, a different career. I wanted to make them a part of the piece so that they could share their knowledge with the audience.
In Montreal, we consider ourselves to be rather sexually liberated, but we still have some work to do on that front. In our society, we think that our reservations stem from modesty, but I believe it’s more than that, I think it’s a question of shame. We live in a society where there is a shame matrix, all around us. You only realize it when you escape from the matrix and realize that things can be different. The outside world tells us to cover ourselves, to hide, because we have public and private parts. Why? Which fear lurks behind this idea?
You trained in Somatic Sex Education; in what ways has this training been instrumental to the creation of this performance?
After several attempts at doing studio work with a contemporary dancer, followed by a circus artist, I realized that I did not have the right tools to bring them where I wanted to go. I felt unable to accomplish what I wanted to do with them. I wasn’t able to make them feel safe. I had no clear idea of what it meant to work with notions of intimacy, sensuality, vulnerability, and sexuality in a professional setting. How can we feel comfortable, how can we avoid bringing back painful memories and systematically recreating the same problems? Think for instance about the issue of consent that was raised with the #MeToo movement.
It is about safety and the bad habits that our ingrained in our society and within our relationships. Each encounter is a negotiation—there has always been a power dynamic between my needs, my intentions, and my desires. Often, we do not realize this and we take up bad habits, hurting ourselves and others. We are very awkward with all this. That is the result of a lack of education in our society. By reflecting on hierarchy and democracy within the work, I wanted to make myself vulnerable and share my experiences with my collaborators. This is essential: I take place within the piece we are creating together. I am a creator as well as a performer.
You might say, then, that this training and the thought process that stemmed from it are at the heart of this performance?
In practical terms, the training gave me the tools to become an “intimacy coordinator.” Everyone has their own trauma, and this is where we start. With extreme empathy towards one another. Not only in terms of sexuality, but also in our daily lives. There is so much information embedded in our bodies, and yet we are only aware of a tiny fraction of these sensations we experience. Instead of starting with desire, orgasm, ejaculation—which are often the core of our understanding of seduction and sexuality—, it is a different way of seeing relationships with ourselves, with others, as well as with the planet. For my next project, incidentally, I intend to explore the natural realm.