10 Hairy Legs explores gay sexuality while steering clear of stereotypes

"Covariance," by , was one of the dances performed by 10 Hairy Leg in New York June 10-14.

“Covariance,” featuring Robert Mark Burke and Alex Biegelson, was one of the dances performed by 10 Hairy Leg in New York June 10-14.

Anticipating Pride Week, the all-male Highland Park-based dance company 10 Hairy Legs returned to New York Live Arts, June 11-14, with two programs guaranteed to excite a gay, male crowd. The sight of two men kissing, in Christopher Williams’ “The Portuguese Suite,” set the tone. Yet while 10 Hairy Legs has always had a gay vibe, it has not waved the rainbow flag so briskly until now.

Let’s be clear about this. While some viewers will (understandably) find themselves drooling over Kyle Marshall’s shirtless torso in “Solo 1,” sex isn’t the point of this grueling Minimalist dance, which choreographer Heidi Latksy created for herself and performed in more modest attire two months ago, at Montclair State University. Ditto Seàn Curran’s “St. Petersburg Waltz,” a tribute to Meredith Monk’s Jewish grandfather. Performed by Robert Mark Burke, “St. Petersburg Waltz” offers a tour of tribulations overcome, but sexy? Nyet, nein and no way. The ensemble piece “Together We Stand” caricatures violence and subservience to power; but while its rowdy scenes may be all-too-typically masculine they are not sexual. Randy James’ re-choreographed premiere, “Heaven’s Dust,” shows men struggling and holding hands, yet its restless patterns suggest a vision of alienation. Together with Doug Elkins’ wonderfully sinuous “Trouble Will Find Me,” these pieces illustrate the variety of 10 Hairy Legs’ usual fare.

This season, however, the bulk of the repertoire consisted of duets, and that’s when 10 Hairy Legs donned its Technicolor Dream Coat. “The Portuguese Suite” borrows its passions from tear-soaked recordings by Amália Rodrigues. Tyner Dumortier begins his opening solo pointing a finger at his head, like a gun; and we learn what’s bothering him when he slides his hand into his sailor-pants. Twisting and fluttering, Dumortier looks anguished, and the choreographer uses flattened positions and stylization to confine him. The dancing begins to smoke when Marshall joins in, the men’s gestures echoing and their bodies interlocking in daredevil lifts.

David Parker’s duet “Slapstuck” is not exactly hot, man-on-man action. Nevertheless, Derek Crescenti and William Tomaskovic are physically joined — with Velcro, in fact — and they must be perspiring under those heavy-duty suits. It’s hard acquiring a sidekick when one is used to being a solo act. An opposite-sex couple could also perform this whimsical dance, which draws laughs by describing too much intimacy. But perhaps there’s something especially maddening about having a partner literally stuck to you, when you see yourself in his eyes. Fortunately Crescenti and Tomaskovic can make music from the rhythmic rip-and-tear of their relationship.

In “Slapstuck,” the dancers greet the audience with vaudeville grins. In “Covariance,” however, choreographers Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor take a different approach. Here the duet partners, Burke and Alex Biegelson, stand back, watching us the way they know we’re watching them. This self-consciousness and the implicit pressure of our gaze is arguably the most interesting thing about this well-crafted but meandering dance, lending a poignant social dimension to the rift that almost separates the lovers.

“Bud,” by Stephen Petronio, seems deceptively laid-back, with its loose, flung movements set to Rufus Wainwright’s song “Oh What a World.” Yet Nicholas Sciscione and Biegelson get quite a workout here as they try to stay together.  Biegelson clasps his partner’s arm as if making a difficult climb hand-over-hand, and at another point Sciscione hangs splayed from Biegelson’s neck in a pose that suggests the weight of co-dependency.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about these duets, to anyone who remembers the “clone” look of the 1970s, is their emotional variety and the insight choreographers now seem free to bring to depicting same-sex relationships. Whether impassioned or comically frustrated, wary of outsiders or taking each other for granted, these men are no longer stereotypes.

Leave a Review or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *