Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Crossing thresholds

Dance duo's naked cock-play is both intimate and aggressive

Guilherme Garrido and Pieter Ampe's collaboration is funny and fearless. "Most of what we do has a childish quality," says Ampe. Credit: Xtra file photo

If you’re a guy who played team sports in high school, Still Standing You will bring back memories. Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido’s choreographic collaboration plays at times like a locker-room initiation. Staged without set, sound and (eventually) without costumes, the duet is a stripped-down examination of male bonding and aggression. Funny as they are fearless, the pair have next to no limits, spending a sizeable chunk of the show completely naked pulling on each other’s dicks.

“Most of what we do in the show has a childish quality, where sexuality doesn’t count as much,” Ampe says. “We don’t relate to the sexual part of it, which frees us to keep a naive quality in the work. It’s quite a natural way for us to experiment with each other’s bodies.”

Ampe and Garrido met in 2006 at a workshop in Vienna. Invited to bring costumes of their choosing to the first class, Garrido showed up wearing nothing but a Mexican wrestling mask and a piece of string, which immediately had Ampe intrigued. Their first collaboration (2007’s Still Difficult Duet) began as an exploration of how to work together, eventually becoming a largely naked deconstruction of discord.

“We have very different approaches to working,” Ampe says. “He’s very fast and impulsive, while I’m slower and tend to get lost wondering where to go. We really liked each other from the beginning but also found conflict came up as soon as we started to work. It was only the point where we were ready to give up when we realized it didn’t matter what we were doing, as long as it was something we liked to do together.”

Still Standing You takes the relationship a step further while keeping conflict a central feature. Pushing, shoving and dragging each other around; punching, kicking and whipping each other with belts, they make the tension between them a space to play. Alternately violent and mischievous, they grunt, snarl, spit and sweat their way through an ongoing negotiation of how to create a performance together. Though the show’s rough structure remains the same, the material continues to develop as it’s performed.

“Most of the really hard stuff only appeared when we were already playing the show,” Ampe says. “When you’re in front of an audience, you don’t want to stop, so we have to figure out in the moment how to do things without really hurting each other. As we’re searching for intensity with each other and the public, the threshold of what we can do keeps moving higher.”

More surprising than the overt violence and full-on cock-play is the work’s intimacy. Cuddled together naked and sweating at the show’s end, the pair alternately appear like lovers post-coitus or soldiers wounded in war.

“For me, intimacy was actually the starting point,” Ampe says. “Two people who want to become one, the language of bodies together, skin on skin. For Guilherme, it was about two individuals becoming stronger in themselves. I guess our negotiation worked, since both things are in the piece in the end.”