Solo for Boy, Sasha Amaya ©Dieter Hartwig

Boy, say something!

In Solo for Boy, which premiered at Dock11 on 11.1.2024, choreographer Sasha Amaya in dialogue with dancer Félix Deepen, works her way through Western representations of male beauty in art, fashion and pop culture.

I mean “working through” quite literally, starting with the overture. In a choreography full of breaths and groans, a young blond man, a boy, pumps his bare chest through a routine of strenuous toning exercises. The work his body is doing to improve itself, is a repetition of gestures performed daily by countless bodies in gyms, parks and private homes. The image cited by this dancer is one that has long ceased to belong exclusively to the domain of normative masculinity.

In the spirit of the times, the blonde boy does not file his shapes and contours in secret but out in the spotlight. Look how eagerly I’m investing in the visual economy of beauty!, his muscular body seems to say. His face is barely visible – perhaps absorbed in counting sit-ups or push-ups. “Are you ready?”, the choreographer’s voice finally asks from offstage and the long journey through the picture book of beautiful boys begins: a young faun wakes up in the afternoon to birdsong and Debussy’s prelude of the same name. Stomping techno, a fog machine and OBI adverts accompany the appearance of the apprentice tradesman as a sex bomb. The male model poses on an invisible catwalk with his mouth hanging open stupidly.

To be honest, over time, I become a little annoyed at being inundated with images of mainstream attractiveness that I usually try to keep at bay. What irritates me in a good way, however, and always brings me back, are those moments in which the choreographer herself appears in the piece, her feminine body taking on the same poses she prescribes or inscribes on the male dancer’s body. As the two of them loll next to each other in unison, their chins propped up, their hands on their bums, the question arises: what is a boy actually? Who decides this and for what purpose?

Solo for Boy is not a solo at all but a duet in which the choreographer appears and overtly influences the production of moving images, attempting to answer the question of the nature of being a boy by reversing the relationships: the trope of the male artist and his female muse is replaced by its opposite. Similar to the woman who only through the male gaze becomes a woman, with no voice of her own, the boy formed here from the choreographer’s fantasy looks good and has nothing to say.

The strategy is effective, but the boy’s silence does not exactly inspire hope and seems to me symptomatic of contemporary gender discourses and their practical negotiations in which relatively speaking, cis-male voices hardly participate.

English translation by Isabel Robson

Solo for Boy by Sasha Amaya (Performance: Félix Deepen, Sasha Amaya) premiered at Dock11 on January 11, 2024, with further performances from January 12-14, 2024. Tickets: