Dance documentary Bare follows a choreographer and his team going through a process of auditions, rehearsals and eventually a premiere. The journey reveals internal artistic conflicts between the dancers and their personal challenges during the several months of creating the performance.

Closeups of male skin and non-stop graphic nudity show how vulnerable these men can be within the non-existent borders of artistic freedom. More of a celebration of the male body than erotica, Belgian choreographer and director of Anima Ardens, Thierry Smits, isn’t always clear about the way things are going but trusts his dancers with the vision he’s trying to accomplish. Anima Ardens demands the dancers to let go of their inhibitions and confront themselves with their instincts. Reminiscent of a modern art installation at times, different stages throughout the production get cut by flashes of the final performance and pieces of Early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.

A very simple and at times strangely voyeuristic behind-the-scenes look into this dance company, can make some uncomfortable, but it’s the unity and playfulness of this group of naked men that pulls you back to reality to remind you these are just humans with nothing to hide. Phalluses galore, there’s nothing holding them back to “get rid of their beauty and act more like a beast“, like Smits commands them at one point, when it seems like they’re not giving it their all. Luckily these gentlemen don’t take any of it personally and when an unattended camera records the men bantering in the locker rooms by slapping their flaccid penises from left to right against their legs, it’s clear the age old phrase “boys will be boys” is still alive and kicking.

These dancers all have perfectly sculpted bodies, but the lack of diversity in showcasing a wider range of body types just seems like a wasted opportunity. Surely Smits didn’t intend to end up with exactly this group of dancers, since early on we get to witness some sort of survival of the fittest where even he finds it hard to make the right choices, solely based on their technique and form.

Director/cinematographer/editor and producer Aleksandr M. Vinogradov, knows exactly what he’s doing following this group of talented guys for 11 months of rehearsal, but at one point misses the ball by inserting an unnecessary slow motion shower sequence that doesn’t entirely fit with the rest of the film and brings down the quality just a notch of what otherwise does feel entirely authentic, and at times even hypnotising. The original score by Aleksandr Vasilenko goes full Under The Skin, which seems fitting with the subject matter, and literally crawls under your skin.

Bare embraces homosocial bonding with a hint of playfulness, while once again challenging art to explore another level of humanity and a very peculiar kind of theatricality.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Bare‘ will screen as part of Doc Edge Festival on:

Tickets are available HERE

Doc Edge Festival Review – ‘Bare’

Reviewed online (also screening as part of Doc Edge Festival), June 12, 2020. Running time: 91 min.

PRODUCTION: A Vam Films production. Producer: Aleksandr M. Vinogradov.

CREW: Director/screenplay/camera/editor: Aleksandr M. Vinogradov. Music: Aleksandr Vasilenko.

WITH: Thierry Smits, David Zagari, Jean Fürst, Francisco López, Valentin Braun, Peter De Vuyst, Michał Adam Góral, Jari Boldrini, Gustavo Monteiro, Bruno Morais, Emeric Rabot, Nelson Reguera Perez, Theo Samsworth, Oliver Tida Tida, Davide Guarino.

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