Naïve Dance Masterclass at Canada Water Culture Space
Previously appearing at the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe festivals where it received a Best Male Performer nomination, Naïve Dance Masterclass is a 50-minute meditation on the value and authenticity of experimental performance.
The show is framed as an autobiographical lecture on an ex-contemporary dancer’s love/hate relationship with performance art, culminating in his development of the “Naïve Dance”, which he proceeds to demonstrate on stage. Central to its genesis is the dancer’s obsession with an immigrant hula-hoopist, whereby the experience of love grants him further material for artistic self-expression.
Lead performer Matt Rudkin, who also wrote and directed the show, is in fact a real-life lecturer, and the tension between love and hate in his protagonist’s attitude towards experimental dance is manifest. On the one hand the dancer satirises its pretentiousness with deadpan references to his perfect body, which he claims to have realised in an epiphanic moment in 1999. It has the effect of highlighting to his audience members their own inadequacies. He also uses the excesses of experimental dance to disorientate the audience during his storytelling. On the other hand, the choreography is thoroughly entertaining to watch and, at its best, borders on beautiful.
Lasting no more than 50 minutes in total, the show presents a lot in considerably little time. Tonally, the narration fluctuates between comic, satirical, sarcastic, philosophical and spiritual. The physical performance also adopts multiple tones, including ethereal and corporeal, and the lighting, music and costumes come together in abundant synchronicity. The show itself contains a dance (hula-hoopist) within a dance (Flesh) within a dance (Naïve Dance Masterclass).
Yet somehow, within the self-indulgent chaos, the viewer is able to fully immerse in the show and follow its lateral storytelling. This is because the performance succeeds in accomplishing the mission of its production company, Inconvenient Spoof, to blur the distinction between art and entertainment. The show is genuinely funny, with audience members habitually laughing out loud. The parody of experimental performance is successfully performed experimentally, the irony of which is not lost on the viewer. Rudkin and his hula hooping co-star Silvia Mercuriali are spectacular in the movements their bodies are able to perform. In short, Naïve Dance Masterclass manages in under an hour to entertain, educate, challenge, dazzle and perplex, sastisfying both the cathartic and thrill-seeking demands of performance art.
Naïve Dance Masterclass was at Canada Water Culture Space on 27th March 2014. For further information visit the show’s website here.
Watch the promotional video for Naïve Dance Masterclass here: