Considered a maverick in dance and a forward-thinking choreographer, Hari Krishnan continues to innovate with his new work, Quicksand,
and its prologue piece Nine
. "For me, it's embracing my Western sensibilities and my Asian ones. I would like the audience to come to the show with an extremely open-minded sexuality in their expectation, because that's what the work is all about,” Krishnan says.
he uses nine attractive, well-trained dancers who are, unintentionally, according to Krishnan, all gay. Each of the dancers is given the task of representing one of the nine emotions. “Love is often erotic, especially with Hari. I do a lot of work that is erotic, so it comes very naturally to me,” says Paul Charbonneau, of his particular rasa,
or emotion. “To perform one emotion is a kind of treat because you get to isolate that feeling and examine a lot of things about yourself from one perspective. That’s what’s really beautiful about the group because each of us represents one of the rasas
, yet all of us are all of them.”
The group has a lot of fun when they’re together, which makes Jelani Douglas’s task of portraying Humour much easier. “My solo honours and tries to understand our love of liberty, for example, through RuPaul, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Ricky Martin, and all beings of pop music. It allows me to fall into the characters that we all enjoy,” he says with a grin.
For some of the other dancers, bringing out and maintaining a certain emotion during a performance is quite easy, such as Rony Lewis, representing Compassion, and Hiroshi Miyamoto, an avid practitioner of meditation and obvious candidate to represent Peace. But it wasn’t so easy. Gerry King found Valour challenging, even though his well-endowed physique is perfectly suited for the part. And Matt Owen had to work hard mentally to keep hold of the euphoric and very temporary state of Wonder.
Not everything in Quicksand
is uplifting – there are some negative states of mind. “Men get stood up and dumped, but you don’t often see vulnerability, especially with straight men. It's something that gay or straight people can relate to in terms of what that feels like,” says martial artist and contemporary dancer Sze-Yang Liam, on portraying Anger. “I get to be really pissed off and smash a bunch of flowers, which is really satisfying. We all wish we could actually smash things, but we usually just smile and get on with work. I represent a human experience that is normally kept in the inside.”
“I brought in personal relationships that I never really got to show disgust,” Matthew Montgomery explains. “I’m weak when it comes to confrontation. I’m a happy-go-lucky person, so when I got Disgust, it was hard at first because it’s quite opposite from me.”
On the other hand, Benjamin Landsberg draws inspiration from his not-always-encouraging professional dance experience to generate Fear. “One of the big draws was this group of guys. I heard from them how good an experience it was, and I needed a positive dance experience. Other groups are usually complex, and I find that this place lacks the drama that’s out there,” he says of his attraction to Krishnan’s ensemble.
Perhaps it’s the birds-of-the-same-feather factor that drew these attractive men to Krishnan’s dance project. More likely is that they represent the pool of talent that the gay community has, and Krishnan has just taken advantage of that often undervalued resource. “It's a very personal work for me, especially considering my identity and sexuality. I'm out and extremely proud. It's a celebration of sexuality and identity using nine sexy, excellently trained dancers and choreography that hopefully speaks to everyone,” he says. Collaborating the parts with his gay dancers was a great way to utilize their queer energy.
“What makes this different from a heteronormative narrative ballet, for example, is that in contemporary, you get more emotions and that beauty within imperfection. You also wouldn’t get that queer understory as much in a ballet,” Lam adds.
“We’ve coloured some of the sections of the piece with a bit of queer experience. The Humour and Fear solos are pretty gay. The bottom line is that we’re all pretty sexy; it’s definitely going to raise impressions of sexuality,” Landsberg says.
“Nine sexy men wearing sheer pants. Enjoy,” Charbonneau adds.
Quicksand runs Thurs, April 12 to Sat, April 14 at the Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queen's Quay W. harbourfrontcentre.com