Friday, February 24, 2012

Man o man

Dance Like a Butterfly Dream Boy made by Josh Rutter
This work is roughly the third or fourth incarnation of a growing set of ideas around performance, masculine identity, rituals, and physical culture that Rutter has been working on.  Incorporating 13 men in workout clothing (many of them artists and /or affiliated in some way to contemporary dance circles) the performance is set on a kind of anonymously featureless old helipad.  

Butterfly Dream Boy keeps a steady level of pressure on its audience via its absurd imagery and shonky transitions. Grotesque calisthenics, advertorials for crap male cosmetics and gladiatorial battles where violence never actually manifests make up some of the ritualistic games and protocols that the group performs. The audience laughs a lot but the piece is not a satire. Rutter is having fun but he’s also perfectly serious about his Weird Dude Energy.

I spoke to one woman who’d seen Butterfly Dream Boy after the show. “Now I know why some women become lesbians.” Harsh call but not as harsh as some of the male rite of passage rituals that Rutter was researching in the lead up.  Those rites of passage are actually a deeply important aspect of being male. Without them we become lost boys. Rutter’s work brings out how we try and fail culturally to find those rituals. We try to find those missing aspects of being male through physical cultures like sports, through drinking, through fighting and posturing.  A lot of that shows up in contemporary culture and points towards the misguided and disconnected condition that many men exist in currently.  

Another audience member pointed out there was no brown skinned men or Asian’s in the work. Aside from the fact the cast were all part of Rutter’s immediate social circle, it could be argued that Western white skinned males are the ones who are lacking the most in terms of spiritual groundednes. Especially as many of us find ourselves part of a growing underclass made manifest by the economic rip tide relentlessly pushing the divide between rich and poor. Many of the cast are artists themselves and as such exist in a confusing binary as a kind of privileged underclass. It’s this confusing status that is embraced and celebrated in Dance Like a Butterfly Dream Boy.

Kristian Larsen
(Writer bias includes but not limited to being one of the performers in the cast of the show, being a close friend of Josh, and feeling a bit jaded about being an artist currently)

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