Naked, VAULT Festival


by Dora Bodrogi

A piece called Naked is sure to bring a memorable experience. Dancer duo Luke Vincent and Paige-Marie Baker-Carroll’s piece does not disappoint. Theirs is a performance that mixes dance, cabaret, theatre, music, and unconventional movement with the aim of putting unapologetic, raw self-expression in the spotlight in a way that lingers long after the lights fade.

The performance is presented in segments. A rather dramatic sight welcomes us to the first one, there are two bodies wrapped in cling film, like twins in a plastic womb, static and peaceful in a naked embrace as one. For now. Of course, they break out of this shared shell, and follow an often-rocky path back and forth between one and two impressions. At times they exist and move in beautiful symbiosis where these two twins, or friends, or halves of the same soul, are in easy sync. Often, however, their choreography disintegrates. They clash and wrestle and struggle nearly to the point of violence. We see childlike playfulness and how it’s extinguished as they are separated and forced to stand in line and jump to a rhythm dictated by others. Thus, any balance created is fragile and brief – they go through motions dealt them by artificial gender roles, and how they turn it all on its head, stripped to their essential selves with nowhere to hide.

Don’t be put off if interpretative dance isn’t your thing, or if this sounds a bit too heavy. After the strong opening, light-hearted cabaret and mime elements follow. These indicate not to take every second of this too seriously. Throughout the performance, just as tough emotions and painful empathy threaten to consume, a welcome relief of humour is just around the corner.

Because Naked is, well, naked. It can be many things. Naked is scary. It is also fun. It’s vulnerability and it’s freedom, it’s humiliation, it’s honesty, it’s raw and it’s a relief, it’s sexuality, physicality, and it’s also abstraction. Naked is shedding ego for the sake of love and baring the soul to others. And naked is dancing under the shower as wildly as you please when no one can see you.

Such a performance is bound to be on the rough side, though it is perhaps a tad too unrefined at times. More precision would be better, especially to contrast all the more with the natural, un-poised movements that characterise much of the show. A gentle rendition of an Eastern European folksong returns in the last act as an elemental cry, providing this very contrast successfully.

Also in terms of songs, the choice of music is great for this show and added sound design elements are never for the sake of pretentiousness. A particular favourite is snippets of interviews about sharing a bed – from waking up in a bathtub after parties, to the first time your partner brings you breakfast in bed. Naked has a way of turning the story back on the viewers without a contrived need to shock – instead of a separation between an audience sitting still, all bundled up in their coats, and the two dancers baring themselves on stage in many senses of the phrase, we can easily recognise ourselves in the performance.

Above all, the dancers’ stage presence, courage, and uninhibited self-expression is such that criticising precision of movement and fragmented scene changes is nitpicking. Such a performance could so easily be intimidating, and its genuineness sacrificed for shock effect but that isn’t the case with this piece. While many shows claim to be brutally honest and celebrate the essential self, Naked actually achieves to do that and more.

Naked runs through 16 February.

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