DOCNYC 2020 review: ‘BARE’ is revealing in every sense.

Eleven naked men audition, rehearse and perform for the premiere of master Belgian choreographer Thierry Smits’s new contemporary dance piece Anima Ardens. Mixing intimate rehearsal footage with extensive and breathtaking dance sequences, BARE follows the choreographer and his team as they work to explore difficult, often taboo subjects through nudity and dance. In this bold exploration of artistic conflict, gender, and sexuality the one constant is the conceit that the body is the last bastion of personal freedom.

Intimate and thoughtful cinematography makes BARE a stunning watch. As a dancer myself since the age of 3, this film was felt on a different level. I know the hours of rehearsal, the physical exhaustion, the emotional journey that comes with the creation of art. As a choreographer, I have had dancers drop out of a massive piece 48 hrs prior to opening. When one is out of step, it can become an avalanche. Director Aleksandr M. Vinogradov shows us everything it takes to make dance breathe. From the athleticism to the partner trust, the personalities and the repetition, the balance of strength and weakness, all of these things while the performers are completely nude. BARE breaks barriers in its boldness from every angle. Choreographer Thierry Smits does not initially reveal the purpose of the camera presence. Once the intention of the documentary is explained, there is trepidation. The audition process continues. When the final group of men is chosen there are 13 weeks to perfect this piece, to build relationships, and show the world more than they’ve ever seen before.

The editing is sharp. Millisecond takes of words and paintings are cut into the chronological storytelling. It keeps you on your toes (no pun intended). Not only does BARE give you an up-close and personal look at the performance world, but it tackles issues of masculinity and preconceived notions of male dancers. Moments of pure levity come in the acceptance that performers are cheeky attention seekers all the time. When the men become fully aware of the ever-present cameras, they mug for them ceaselessly. Experimental exercises are something magical to behold. If you pause any moment during the film when dance occurs, it’s a breathtaking tableau of life and movement. BARE eases a viewer not familiar with dance into a world brimming with discovery, raw emotions, organic yet precise planning, sometimes fraught with injury, but always filled with surprise.

DOC NYC 2020
Virtual Screening Information
Wednesday Nov 11
Start Time: 12:00pm EST
For Tickets, DOC NYC