feature: on male intimacy, art… and healing!

July 29, 2014
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Badaboum… Here starts this piece of a story; a tiny testimony on how you can heal the wounds of being a Man and on top of that be sensitive with an Artiste’s gifts. On how life sometimes brings you opportunities disguised in a casual joke outfit, and how you can surprise yourself way beyond anything you would imagine!
What happens when we, men, are alone with ourselves? What do we feel? How do we act? What about our routines, our rituals? Why do we feel the urge to always compare ourselves to others? And ultimately what does it take to be a man? Is it a tangible reality? A myth? Or a psychological construction? Maybe a mix.

By Hendry Léton, AFROPUNK Contributor

My story goes like this:
A few months ago, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a piece of Contemporary Dance with a company named Art & Fact. Nothing exceptional, right?
Well it wouldn’t be:
IF I wasn’t actually a Hip Hop Dancer (with as much experience in contemporary dance as the portion of meat in a vegan burger!)
IF the piece was not about “Male intimacy”…hum
IF we were not actually based in a tiny, French Black Caribbean Island, Martinique, where a ‘real Man’ is macho, fucks around with as many girls as he can and where ‘male intimacy’ seems like being a gay theme… ain’t it? Well no, it is not, or at least not exclusively.
So here comes the Dream Team that put this all together.

Jean-Hugues Miredin, the choreographer and co-director of the Company. The Master of Ceremony, the one with the 30-year international Career in NYC, Italy and Denmark, the boss! Be careful… he seems harmonious and smooth… WHAT-EVER! Want to know what a hyper detailed and focused work tyrant is? Well, come on and visit!

Then comes Laurent Troudart, the other co-director. The first dread locks man. The idealist per se who wants to change the world and put the Black Man at the Top (he has good ideas sometimes!). The only ‘real’ contemporary dancer of the troupe, with a background of experience in France.

Flexx Vaillant, the B-Boy Dancer, a local Star. A very surprising guy, very masculine, almost the stereotypical image of the Macho kind who suddenly becomes, while dancing, as sensual as the most lavish Pole dancer girl.

And last but not least… me, Hendry. Maybe the most versatile one (no comment please!). International (lived in Paris, Barcelona, and London) and the one who can dance, sing, write, and cook alien food (but that’s another story). The only one crossed with his art, who is there a bit by accident. Because I’m “a quite in my body person” Jacky said (whatever the hell does that mean?) and I can sing in Spanish.

So we started with enthusiasm. But it rapidly appeared that Masculine intimacy is a quite tricky subject to cover.
What I thought would be a mere choreography-learning process with a different style, is quickly becoming something else, something totally different from whatever I experienced before. We are asked to dig into our own masculine intimacy, our soul stocker. Our memories, however sad or painful they can be.
The choreographer, as an emotional surgeon, cuts the emotional flesh, sometimes harshly, and reassembles it, in a way that seems absolutely random. It takes shape like an intangible cloud that poetically takes consistence and suddenly is there beneath your eyes, as if it had always been; a new born child from old scars.
What I thought would be light, unfolds to be as walking on hot spades. I am asked to create, to dive into my experience, to unveil the things of me I’m not so comfortable with. The violent side, the sexual one too, the beast that lays inside, as well as the hyper touchy-feely and (too?) sensitive one as well.
The others are like (deforming) mirrors. And yes it’s harsh to really take the time to thoroughly examine oneself, to acknowledge the things you hid far away beneath your guts, out of the conscience’s sight.
I hated this process because it was painful. I hated the choreographer for pushing my buttons so deep down and I hated myself for being put in such an uncomfortable position.

But right through and out of the tunnel comes an enlightening inner truth. A personal one though. I realized that I wanted to bury my artistic gifts so I could be accepted by mum and dad and society. I wanted to believe that these gifts were no more than hobbies, I could entertain myself with a “proper”, “real”, “normal” job. I was not willing to accept that I was not all harmony and sweetness, that there was more to me. The Rough and the Dark side of the Force, which (contrary to Darth Vader) can be transformed for the good. A burning rage flooding in my veins which MUST be used because it’s a fuel that’s makes you assert yourself, stand up and persevere through the obstacles that might necessarily appear in your (newly found?) path.
But in the end, what happened? The show premiered in December as a “work in progress”. It was then presented for a Biennale Festival in May where it was warmly greeted and encountered a real and genuine success. People were generally very surprised that we dared to interpret such a piece here in Martinique. Some men said that they didn’t know whether they liked or disliked it, but they felt moved inside (great!). Women reported that they wouldn’t watch their men the same way anymore (hmm).
We have another date coming up for Summer Cultural Nights. The next step is clearly going further and export it internationally!
So is that it? Am I healed? Will the Fairy Queen stop weeping? (Important note here: I am not the Fairy Queen. It’s actually a music excerpt in the piece!)
We all know that it is not that easy. I still have my day job that pays the bills for now. But at least I learnt. I learnt you may lie to others and wear as many social masks as necessary but at the end of the day you can only do that for so long. There’s only one dramatic choice when you are conscious: living your real life as tough as it might appear, or die alive in a sad and fake one.
I learnt that the “Artist’s way” (yes I’m reading the book from Julia Cameron) is my path, even though I’m scared to death. That Art is not so much about being outrageously super- duper brilliant but more about becoming a bit more of who you are really every day – a desperately simple yet limitlessly Creative Human Being.

Photos by Nicolas Derné

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