Named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to watch” in 2016, the all-male contemporary dance company MADBOOTS DANCE comes to Vancouver’s 2016 Chutzpah! Festival in February.
“With so many companies in New York, to be recognized in that way is really valuable, and encouraging because people are responding to what we are doing. It isn’t about fame and glory, but about people being affected by our work,” says Jonathan Campbell, who along with his real-life partner Austin Diaz co-founded MADBOOTS in 2011.
Before forming their company though, Campbell and Diaz first developed a personal relationship. The chemistry between them, both personally and professionally, was immediate.
“There was this symbiotic relationship,” says Diaz. “We were on the same wavelength when it came to movement and artistry.”
Discovering that they worked well together as both a couple and as dancers, it wasn’t long before MADBOOTS was born. And while they admit there has been the inevitable conflicts from being together 24/7, they also believe that it has helped in their choreography.
“There is this constant back and forth, bouncing ideas at each other even when we’re outside the studio,” says Diaz. “Five years in, and it is still a learning experience.”
Next came the decision for MADBOOTS to become an all-male company, an idea that came out of their early exploration of masculinity.
“This topic of masculinity and identity kept coming out in the duets that we made in our first year together, and it felt right to explore that with a male company,” says Campbell. “There are a lot of stereotypes that come with a male company, and we wanted to stray away from that and give it a different perspective.”
For Diaz, the pressures that he saw as a young gay man growing up also played in the decision to form the company. “The mission for the company is to explore this male identity and what it means to be a man today,” he says.
Their latest work, (SAD BOYS), which was last seen as the closing performance at the 2015 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, will be performed as part of this year’s Chutzpah! Festival. An ensemble work for five dancers, (SAD BOYS) began from a line in Allen Ginsberg’s poem, Song: “I always wanted, to return to the body where I was born”.
“There was just so much to explore, that idea of wanting to return to the body without identity, without name, and before expectations were put on you,” says Campbell. “Then to look at that notion from the queer lens of two gay dancers was very powerful.”
With Ginsberg’s poem as the starting point, the two have also curated an eclectic soundtrack for (SAD BOYS) that includes music from the likes of Neil Young, The Beach Boys, and Jimi Hendrix.
“There is a lot of research and premeditation that we do before creating,” says Diaz. “We accumulate a lot of music at the beginning of the process – classical, oldies, electronic, ambient – we’re all over the place. As we begin to build a piece, it is very much trial and error, and we keep chopping away at until it flows right and creates the environment that we want to create.”
Photo above: Nir Arieli
(SAD BOYS) plays as part of the 2016 Chutzpah! Festival on February 20-22 at the Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre (950 W 41st Ave, Vancouver). Visit http://chutzpahfestival.com for tickets and information.