Beat-pumped dance work MSM explores online desires at the Queer Arts Festival

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      The dance-theatre work MSM [men seeking men] had its beginnings as Indrit Kasapi was cleaning out a computer to give to his parents. There, he found a whole bunch of old transcripts of chats he had had with men online. They had started around the time he was 16 and continued up to his early 20s, and Kasapi realized they encapsulated someone coming of age, coming out, and exploring his desires.

      “It was like me meeting Indrit at 16, when I was kind of discovering my sexuality and figuring out who I was,” Kasapi, artistic producer at lemonTree creations, tells the Straight from his office in Toronto. “At 16 I had never even thought about coming out. It was about trying to understand what I knew about myself.

      “My parents were accepting, but certainly they weren’t going to sit me down to talk about sex, let alone about gay sex,” he adds. “So this was how I was learning about what others’ desires were and what turned them on, and maybe what my desires were. It also provided a safe platform in some ways.”

      Kasapi has turned those conversations and others into a beat-pumped dance-theatre work that integrates spoken text—his own online chats, as well as his dancers’, often in the sexually explicit dialogue that digital anonymity allows. He says it’s a nonjudgmental ode to online dating, and the use of club music came naturally: “If we’re going to talk about men wanting to see each other, it’s in clubs, with beats and DJs,” says Kasapi, whose background spans everything from folk dance in his native country of Albania to theatre and contemporary dance in Canada. “I almost feel like the DJ, for our community, is a sort of deity.”

      With smartphones and apps now ubiquitous, Kasapi says the dating landscape has changed in the four or so years since he created MSM. “Dating apps have normalized things in some ways for gay people.”

      Still, there’s a range of responses to the work. “The audiences we have have always had two different responses,” he says. “They’re either completely shocked because they’ve never visited these chat rooms or else they identify themselves so much.”

      The Queer Arts Festival presents MSM [men seeking men] at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre on Tuesday and Wednesday (June 20 and 21).