It's interesting how much uncomfortable conversation sex and nudity can create and how people can easily feel confronted by seeing a breast or a penis. So when you're watching a performance art piece in which the dancers are nude for the entire show, it can lead to some awkward moments. However, Mette Ingvarsten is well aware of this fact and in 7 Pleasures she immediately knocks down the obvious issue before the performance has even begun, or before anyone in the audience is given a chance to realise it has begun.
Ingarsten's work explores the pleasure - and the pain - the body can provide and the difficulty in being able to enjoy one's own body when faced with constriction and conflict. The set design for 7 Pleasures is simple and familiar, a living room with a few chairs, a table, coffee table and a pot plant. Its familiarity is what sets you at ease...except for the giant sculpture of naked bodies forming in a back corner.
Slowly, the performers begin to move as one, like lava seeping down a volcano as they envelop any furniture that lies in its way. While there are breasts, vaginas and penises on display, the bodies lose their gender through the course of the movements with arms and legs intertwining with each other until it's almost impossible to tell where one person's body ends and another begins. There is no music or noise during this sequence except for the contact the bodies make with each other and the set pieces. This play with sound and music adds to the themes explored and when these bodies reach peak liberation (and orgasm), Peter Leanaert and Will Guthrie's music and soundtrack creates a tribal-like feel with the near-destruction of Ingvarsten and Minna Tikkainn's set.
The final part of the show looks at body politics and the policing of bodies, with half the performers dressed head to toe in black and the other half still naked. There is a struggle between the two as they each fight for what they believe is right. The choreography still has the entrancing rhythm Ingvarsten has maintained throughout the piece but she also manages to imbue it with a violence that is both beautiful and horrifying to watch.
7 Pleasures is a highly intimate work that acknowledges the sexual joy the body is capable of providing. However, the pleasure that it refers to is more from the self-discovery and the surprises that our own bodies can give us if we are brave enough to go exploring.
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.
Season: Until 22 October | Fri - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: Full $59 - $69 | Under 30s $30
Bookings: Melbourne Festival
Photo Credit: Marc Coudrais
*Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 20 October 2017.