Dave St-Pierre’s dancers want A Little Tenderness and maybe some skin cream.
UN PEU DE TENDRESSE BORDEL DE MERDE! (A LITTLE TENDERNESS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!) choreographed by Dave St-Pierre. Presented by Harbourfront's World Stage at the Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West). Runs to Saturday (February 5), 8 pm. $15-$49. 416-973-4000. See listing.
Dave St-Pierre doesn't mind if you hate his shows. He just doesn't want you to be bored.
He can rest easy. Un Peu De Tendresse Bordel De Merde! (A Little Tenderness For Crying Out Loud!), the second part of his dance trilogy that began with 2004's La Pornographie Des Ames, has elicited extreme reactions. People either love it or hate it.
"This is what I want!" laughs the tireless Montreal choreographer on a rare day off. "I've seen people laugh, cry, get angry. What I don't want is for people to come out saying, ‘Oh yeah, that was okay.' I'd prefer you to hate it."
If emotions run high over a St-Pierre show, it's because he deals with big, bold themes. La Pornographie, an epic work divided into 26 vignettes, which played here two years ago, chronicles the effects of a breakup.
"It's about how you feel when you get dumped or if somebody dies," says St-Pierre. "You feel like nothing, like there's a great big hole in your stomach and mind."
By contrast, La Tendresse explores what comes after: the "reconstruction period." It focuses on a character, Sabrina (Enrica Boucher).
"Sabrina doesn't believe in love or romance any more - she spits on that and doesn't want to meet anyone at all," says the choreographer, who created this piece, like all of his works, in collaboration and through improvisation with his dancers.
"The other people in the show are the opposite. They want to fall in love, want to get hurt. So it's fun to see the two different energies onstage at the same time."
Part of Sabrina's emotional journey, I should point out, involves onstage masturbating - with a Black Forest cake. (Don't worry, the audience participation doesn't involve eating said cake.)
Which brings up the question of the work's nudity. In North America it still manages to shock, although in Europe it's hard to go to the theatre without having some body part waved in your face.
La Tendresse begins, literally, with a naked dude in a blond wig mixed in with the audience, his genitals mere inches from your lap.
"We're in 2011. It's just nudity - wake up, people!" says St-Pierre about some of the reactions. "When I hear stories about putting bikinis on naked statues in museums, I realize this is why I exist, why I have to do this show again and again and again.
"How can we have completely sexualized Britney Spears videos on YouTube but complain about an artful Sigur Rós video of nude people running in a forest?
"The nudity is not shocking," he says. "It's what you're doing with the nudity that is important."
St-Pierre's currently working on the trilogy's finale, which explores falling in love again. It's slotted for 2012, but if he doesn't complete it on time he's not worried. He wants to do it right.
Living with cystic fibrosis, he knows that every moment is important. After a lung operation in 2009, he began performing for the first time in years, first in the ironically titled solo Over My Dead Body.
"A lot of people are asking me to create shows for them," he says. "La Porno and Tendresse are my old babies - they can go off by themselves now. I'm busy with my new babies now. The operation was great, but I have to take care of myself. My body's telling me that sometimes I have to calm down."
Additional Interview Clips
St-Pierre on the trilogy's universal themes of love, heartbreak and death:
Responding to one critic's comment that Un Peu De Tendresse Bordel De Merde! is "anti-feminist" and "anti-gay":
On the trilogy's finale (about falling in love), including a dig at Jennifer Aniston movies: