Gerard Reyes has hair removal down to an art from. A relatively furry guy normally, the Montreal-based dancer/choreographer can go from Sasquatch to baby-smooth in just under two hours.
“I could probably do it in less time but I’m very meticulous,” Reyes laughs. “The most difficult part is shaving my beard, because it takes away from my personal aesthetic.
When I was coming out, the gay look was more of a homogenous, hairless ideal. In the last few years, we’ve started to see an embrace of individuality and I’ve grown to really love my body hair. But as a performer, I have to represent so many things on stage I don’t always have the luxury of being myself. My boyfriend complains about the stubble sometimes, but it’s all part of the job.”
A dancer with Compagnie Marie Chouinard, the Toronto-born artist has no shortage of experience with lengthy performance preparation rituals. One of Canada’s foremost choreographers, Chouinard is well known for both technically complex choreography and outlandish costumes. Her last production to visit Toronto (2011’s Orpheus and Eurydice) saw dancers decked in nipple pasties and large black strap-ons for much of the show.
For his current turn in The Golden Mean (Live) Reyes dons all manner of elaborate wigs and masks, in addition to a head to toe covering of gold body shimmer. Starting out uniformly blond-haired, bespeckled, and elf-eared, the cast gradually sheds their layers and gain individual identities, until they all end up naked. And yes, there’s full-frontal.
“We start out as this sort of race of homogenous looking, highly evolved humans,” he says. “We’re unidentifiable from one to the next and totally androgynous. Over the show, the masks and the costumes come off and our individuality gradually comes out.”
Though it’s usually presented in large venues, the show aims at a certain kind of intimacy. Conceived as an immersive piece, it literally surrounds spectators on all sides. A large catwalk like structure juts out into the auditorium (“Like a finger penetrating the audience,” Reyes says) and a number of seats are located onstage, up close and personal with the dancers.
“No one in the audience will have the same experience because their relationship to the action is so different depending on where they are seated,” he says. “There really isn’t a best seat in the house because every position provides a different perspective on the action.”
The Golden Mean (Live) runs May 8-11, 8pm, May 12, 2pm Bluma Appel Theatre St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St. East, Toronto $24-99 canadianstage.com mariechouinard.com