REAL MEN (2004)

Arthur Avilés’ REAL MEN (2004) confronts the politics of race, gender, and sexuality in contemporary dance. For this piece, Avilés casts dancers of different racial backgrounds and sexual identities. The performers have movement backgrounds in modern dance, jazz, and ballet, and various levels of formal training. One performer has no previous training and appears on stage for the first time. Furthermore, all the dancers in the piece are from the Bronx—a political gesture by Avilés to place Uptown bodies on the Downtown stage. In REAL MEN, nude male brown bodies oscillate between movement phrases and contact forms. The movement derives from Avilés’ Initial Response—a choreographic strategy that uses non-thinking to create a series of movement phrases. As the male dancers slowly undulate across the floor, a female dancer enters wearing a tuxedo and mustache. The dancers perform the same movements together, blurring the lines of gender. Here, Avilés works to confront the historical gender binaries in dance by challenging the ways in which gender is perceived and performed on stage. REAL MEN premiered as part of the all-male dance series “In the Company of Men.” Avilés was the first choreographer to invite a woman to perform on stage in the series. He asserts that REAL MEN “is as much a social justice act as it is a dance piece. It is about men of color and connection. REAL MEN is a unique dance piece for its time.”