MAN[or]GOD – Mavin Khoo & Hector Ferrer
The Cannon Factory, London,
September 23, 2022
Report by Priyakshi Agarwal
London-based Mavin Khoo, the phenomenal queer South Asian dance artist who has been performing in the UK since 1994, came together with ballet dancer Hector Ferrer. Their performance MAN[or]GOD seems to have created a milestone in contemporary dance performance history and expression of queer desires.
There were many endings, closings and lasts with MAN[or]GOD that charged up a transgressive energy from the very beginning. Set in The Cannon Factory, a warehouse and performance space, for Khoo it was a last performance in the contemporary idiom of bharatanatyam before he dedicates his work to a classical Indian repertoire. This transgression between Man and God, the borderline act of (not platonic but) material and bodily love between human and divine, underlined openings and possibilities that re-centre the queer body and love.
‘If God can make love to me / Why can’t you?’ - Mavin Khoo
Complete darkness broken by strobe lighting and haze greeted us at the door to help towards accessibility. The setting, sound, and video projections contributed to the full immersion, opening up possibilities of not vismriti – an act of losing sense of your body but of metamorphosis where there is a possibility of becoming something else. Yet, the queer performative encounter brought in by Mavin and Hector transformed the space in a womb-like interiority of a temple (garbha-griha), simultaneously a laboratory for transformation and an act of devotion. Audiences were in close proximity within the space and the intimacy encircling the dancers from three sides allowed them to physically enter an affective aspect of the performance.
The interior of the space provisioned with crossing beams of mirrored projectors underlined the significance of the in-between – that of dusk. Focused pre-recorded visuals of skin and movements detailed intimate moments and distorted the distance between audience and performers. Maxime Dos’s film direction opened a visual sensorium of queerness through visuals and audio that played with glitch, noise and pixelation.
At the core of the performance was the tension between the two worlds – spiritual and material, (the Indian philosophical concept of God as the lover) and the pull and push of attraction versus the force of social taboos. Mavin and Hector skillfully challenged these moral realms. The physical proximity of the dancers, their effort and sweat was palpable.
The moment when Mavin and Hector lie on each other becomes a metonymic encounter into this act of becoming one with beloved. References to the queer intimacies and sociological genealogies of grace such as drag walks situated this dance within and towards a larger queer community world-view.
The choreographers Joy Alpuerto Ritter and Akram Khan created an inviting negotiation and complex translation of Mavin’s personal narratives into the movement content. Gideon Berger’s music direction with the unforgettable and spellbinding voice of Nina Harries’ Corsican folk were of great support.
The overture of possibilities for queer inhabitation of a still binary world, the transgression in love, and a queer domesticity of movement towards each other marked the space. The Cannon Factory reverberated with applause long after the feet of Mavin Khoo and Hector Ferrer stopped.
Priyakshi Agarwal is a MA Dance student at Roehampton University.