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Review: With 11 Nude Dancers, 'Bare' Celebrates Masculine Beauty

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jun 22, 2021

It's hard to believe that even in 2020 public nudity still evokes a torrent of negativity. On one hand, there are the juvenile reactions from people who left their teen years decades ago, and on the other hand, there is still so much overwhelming, out-of-place Victorian censorship. If you show more than a naked ankle on Facebook, the narrow-minded, self-appointed expurgators will banish you and your FB page from public view until you recant.

This regrettable situation is part of the reason why Belgian choreographer Thierry Smits developed a dance piece with 11 male nude dancers. Smits claims that this work depicts a world "overrun by right-wing and neoliberal" ideals, conflating unabashed nudity with leftism.

"Bare" is a film by Aleksandr Vinogradov that documents the 11-month journey of Smits creating the performance piece "Anima Ardens" from the very start to the premiere performance.

The cameras are there for an intensive couple of days of auditions. Interestingly, one of the dancers questions the fact that they are being filmed naked, and he is concerned about what will happen with these images, especially if he is not cast. It's a sad indictment of today's culture, where nude images are often crudely exploited without permission.

Smits' "ballet" is strictly about male nudity, which is unusual in itself, and some of the pieces in it are very phallic. Others, however, switch from the masculine and, in one of the most profoundly moving segments, he has the men giving their own concepts of a birthing experience.

The nudity is not intended to be either erotic or provocative, but it does show the sheer beauty of the male form. It actually turns out that most of the men who make up the diverse cast are gay. This may (or may not) have added a level of both personal freedom and more sensitivity on how they perceived their own nudity.

Kudos not just to the dancers and their sheer vitality, but also to Vinogradov's camera capturing so many close-ups that he wove into his beautifully-edited film.

If there is a novelty at seeing 11 naked men on the screen at the start of the film, that completely dissipates by the end. It's a celebration of masculinity that is a joy to watch.

"Bare" is available today on DVD from TLA Releasing

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.

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