Exploring masculinity and brotherhood through parallels between the worlds of dance and boxing, Emio Greco ¦ PC's choreography is highly textured and exploding with sinewy tension. As the audience drifts into the theatre, two performers are seated in the corners of the boxing ring which forms the set, casually chainsmoking and each absorbed in his own thoughts. As the iconic sound of the boxing-bell rings, two mascots in Mickey-Mouse-proportioned monkey masks begin a menacing, nervous energy-fuelled pantomime of boxing which is both amusing and unsettling. Their comic display highlights the theatre of boxing: this is more of a WWF performance than an honest sporting enterprise and the opening section is the first of many variations on this theme.
The ever-present form of the boxing duel takes on the significance and complexity of the ballet pas de deux. Through it, we see the men preparing themselves, tendu exercises are executed with attack, precision and repetition before quivering legs belie the men's emotional state. The fighting itself is drawn in various guises: psychological standoffs, contemporary movement vocabulary danced at each other (which often looks more aggressive than the actual punches thrown) and more instantly-recognisable boxing and wrestling which is variously performed naturalistically and at times more stylised or 'danced'. When time is slowed down, it becomes apparent how many similarities there are between the pure dance values of repetition, rhythm and technical movement and the structure of the spectacle of boxing. Before the "Pauze", the men are either preparing themselves, psyching each other out or fighting in various ways. The two mascots ditch their masks and fight wearing full-face balaclavas, becoming both 'no man' and 'every man'. They continue to gradually strip off through progressive rounds and their fighting becomes harder, more personal and real. Eventually they ditch their trousers to reveal leggings, one boxer in contour-revealing black and the other in sparkly gold. The laughter this provokes is natural but slightly stilted. We have been watching men being very masculine and aggressive but we are in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's Southbank, watching contemporary dance. is it really such a surprise to us that men can be both 'macho' and violent and also effeminate?
Because of the new costume, we can no longer read the boxing at face value. With the traditional archetype of masculinity subverted the relationship between the men as they duel becomes more complex. Now that visually the idea of gay has been introduced each wrestle becomes an embrace; the proximity of the sweaty half naked bodies is more homoerotic. Through a hilariously camp cheesy mimed French love song, this dimension of the relationships is pushed until, as the bell rings, the men start to passionately kiss. More laughter from the audience ensues which is largely borne from the comedic timing, but even in my reading of the work as a gay man, there is still something unusual and striking about the sight of two men kissing in this testosterone-fuelled arena.
Each time the bell rings the mood changes and we are variously shown men showing off, developing their physicality, intimidating each other, fighting, flirting and being sexual. All very stereotypically manly, all very instinctual or 'animal'. Where are the higher brain functions of these men? Language, culture and complex thought are lacking. Are Emio Greco ¦ PC simply being selective about the aspects of masculinity that they are exploring in Double Points: Rocco or is it that this is what they believe are the most masculine of personal traits?
This portrayal of the complexity of men's relationships was danced clearly and intelligently. The virtuosic technical dance feats performed emphasised the alpha male status of these men because of rather than despite the ballet slippers they wore. The occasional frailties visible in the struggle to find and hold clean balances, although never missed, served to deepen the characterisation of the performances. I recognised a lot of myself in the themes explored but not the whole of me. While this was a powerfully detailed and thorough exploration of the more testosterone-fuelled aspects of masculinity, if the idea was to look at the whole of what it is to be a man and to develop relationships with other men, then it was somewhat shallow in its scope. It was an exciting and dramatic piece of dance theatre nonetheless and if you are fortunate enough to be in the Netherlands this year they are touring widely in June, August, November and December.