Belgian Dancer Pieter Ampe Gets Naked with Portuguese Co-Creator Guilherme Garrido at the FringeArts Festival

Still Standing

The FringeArts Festival has made a name for itself by taking audience members out of their comfort zone. Some may not know if they’re up for a two-man show with nudity that gives you scenes of male intimacy, friendship, and raw aggression. But, you may be surprised to see how audiences react to this show that’s toured extensively through Europe and parts of the U.S. FringeArts producing director Nick Stuccio describes the pair as “very smart, courageous, contemporary artists. But they’re also beer-drinking, bearded guys” who are “playful as hell in this physical romp. It’s tasteful and fun, even with the ball-tugging. No one will be bored.” We talked with Belgian artist and dancer Pieter Ampe by phone from his home in Brussels about Still Standing You, the 45-minute dance performance piece made with Portuguese artist and dancer Guilherme Garrido. Pieter, 33, and Gui, 32, perform Wednesday through Friday at the Painted Bride.

What was the process to create this piece? Gui and I met at a big festival a couple of years before we made the work and took a liking to each other. Both of us are playful and have high energy. Gui invited a group of us to meet him in Portugal where he lived to do some work. I arrived at his house with a lot of friends and we had fun. I took my next holiday from school in Porto to work on something with him. I knew it would be about celebrating our friendship, but we didn’t know where it was going. At a residency in France, we forced ourselves to stay in the studio and find what we wanted to make together. It took awhile. I was trying to be more intellectual than I am. The moment we stopped trying so hard, things started working.

Did you hesitate about being nude onstage for parts of the show? This was an issue for the first piece with Gui [Still Difficult Duet]. I was thinking about my grandmother and what she would think. We were fighting about this, thinking “I don’t want to go naked because I want my grandmother to see the show.” Finally I asked myself, “Do I do it for my grandmother or for myself?”

This piece has you doing many things to each other: hitting, whipping, hugging, hoisting, climbing, throwing, etc. How do you two work together? We created this thing with as much respect as possible. It’s very provocative and rude. The audience allows us to play around and it really communicates the chemistry between us… It looks very impulsive and wild. I’m a bit wild, but shy, and very easily manipulated. So, I allow Gui to go far, to try out things that other people might not allow. He’s the only person who could do that. I’m so much in love with the fact that he made things alive. He’s very energizing by being unreasonable sometimes, but also really great… It’s mainly about friendship and the way as humans how we confront each other: We challenge each other, support each other, irritate, torture each other and then again, help. It’s how 7 or 8-year-olds play together.

Pilobolus, the American dance company famous for using nudity, describes dance as a form of play. Do you regard your piece as play? I know Pilobolus from videos. I can relate to what they say about play, but the difference is Gui and I actually allow ourselves to become extremely personal. Also, we’re not as skilled or as well trained as dancers. We are the fat version of them.

How do you keep vanity at bay, being nude in front of judging eyes? We are yo-yo [body] types. In the last five or six years, we’ve performed in all shapes. It’s really hard when we’re too heavy for each other, the work is so physical. I had a friend says “It’s better when Pieter is fat. It gives a more human touch.” For my personal life, I want to be thinner, but I’m not embarrassed.

You have said you want audiences to be in the moment with you. Why is that important? Our work is about creating an energy when we are together, playing and experiencing the act of living, not thinking about being somewhere else or watching our iPhones. There is huge profound work to be made about getting myself and other people in the moment, not being distracted by other things. There’s an abundance of information, and it all falls into nothing. In the end, it’s just more information.

Finally, have you ever been to Philadelphia before? No. I’m very curious about Philadelphia. I’ve see the movie Philadelphia, and I know about that scene from Rocky, where he climbs up the stairs. I think I’ll film Gui running up the museum stairs. I also saw a picture of a Philly cheesesteaks sandwich. I’m wondering if I’d like it.

“Still Standing You” runs September 9-11 at Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street. For tickets and more information, click here.