Montreal dancer, choreographer and former sex worker George Stamos remembers the day in 1996 when he stripped for Quentin Crisp. It was just the two of them at Crisp’s New York City home.
“I was not intimidated at all,” says Stamos. “While I knew who he was and was respectful of him, I wasn’t a huge fan. So, his defences were down. It was fun to be casual with him.”
As casual as one can get in front of a video camera.
Stamos is planning to incorporate video from that encounter into an as-yet-to-be-titled solo work set to premiere in Montreal in May.
“I still need to whittle down that video,” he says.
Nudity and Stamos seem to go hand-in-hand, and there is more of it in Husk, a show he choreographed and directed as part of Montréal Danse’s 25th anniversary season.
“Husk is about the relationships we have with our bodies and how they define us,” Stamos explains. “I looked like a little girl when I was kid, so I was aware of the codes of movement, the way people perceive you, and what you deliver with your physical self. This hyperawareness of how I am in the world informs the way I approach dance.”
Husk stars dancers Elinor Fueter, Rachel Harris, Frédéric Mariern and musician Jackie Gallant, who used to be the drummer for Lesbians on Ecstasy.
“Jackie plays guitar and drums live onstage, wears a crazy costume and does some performance stuff, which is new for her,” Stamos says. “She’s from the rock world, and it’s great to have her influence in the piece.”
Stamos will be back dancing onstage for his Quentin Crisp solo work later in the spring. And there will be yet more nudity.
“Taking your clothes off is not normal,” he says. “If you walk naked in the street, you’re vulnerable. It’s only something I am comfortable with when I feel safe, when it’s called for, but when I look at some contemporary dance art, performers make being nude look like it is normal, and it’s not,” he continues. “Look at nudity among professional dancers versus strippers. I love how strippers are able to be naked and sexual while also saying, ‘This isn’t the real me.’ There is a certain distance that is comforting, whereas in some contemporary dance, nudity is like baring your soul. And I find that less effective.”
That mindset evidently is a product of Stamos’s old sex-worker days.
“We’re talking about 20 years ago, darling,” Stamos, now 42, says. “But what I learned back then was how to become a convincing performer.”