AESTHETIC EMOTION ON THE STAGE (THANK YOU, KYLIE MINOGUE!!)

Two years ago I had the great pleasure of writing with my friend Gerardo Rodríguez a paper on Kylie Minogue, which we presented at the 2009 AEDEAN at Cádiz. Yesterday, we both had the pleasure of seeing Kylie perform here in Barcelona to a full Palau Sant Jordi (her boyfriend, top model Andrés Velencoso, included!!!). Not everyday can one can dance with a colleague, much less to the subject of a paper. Thank you, by the way, Mr. Andrés, we know we owe this unforgettable pleasure to your charming Ms. Minogue…

Being specialists in Gender Studies, the point we made in our joint paper is that Australian Ms. Minogue is being discriminated as a performing artist in comparison to Madonna and other female American stars, because she’s assumed to be too feminine to be in control of her career. This is false, we claimed: that femininity might be incompatible with feminism is already a worrying assumption and that Ms. Minogue is just a doll is simply wrong. She’s a devoted professional, capable of overcoming the disaster caused by her breast cancer with smiles and an easy charm that barely conceals an iron will to please. I was witness of this yesterday.

Watching her on stage, I realised what aesthetic emotion means and how deeply moving it can be –even to tears. Her show, part of her Les Follies 2011 tour, is based on the theme of her last CD –Aphrodite– and includes, as usual for her, a series of numbers in which she sings live (very well!) accompanied by a group of muscled, handsome female and male dancers (yes, gays love her for the men –but so do I). The spectacle offered is unique in its classy elegance and it is visually astonishing, perhaps only comparable to West End or Las Vegas-style musicals. This made me consider, of course, whether was I was seeing was theatre rather than a pop concert, which makes the experience particularly enriching (bitchy others think she’s using the show to mask waning musical abilities… this is so unfair…).

What was unexpected for me (and for Gerardo and our companions) was that we could we moved to tears by the beauty of what was offered on stage. A beauty which, and this is crucial, Ms. Minogue and company choose to provide at a high expense, regardless of how this diminishes their benefits. The last segment of the show, in which water plays a major role, is simply splendid. I was watching her sing surrounded by four couples of flying dancers, all glamour at the service of my pleasure, and I had to thank her mentally for caring to hire the right people, people who bring a truly avant-garde feel to what is, if you will, just a pop music gig.

Then I remembered that next week I’ll be working with my students on Sarah Kane’s controversial play Blasted, and I wondered why we make so much of that ugliness (poetic, some call it) and so little of this beauty. Since Ms. Kane has entered with full honours the history of British Theatre, I’ll do my best to help Ms. Minogue enter the bigger history of performance on the stages all over the world, to which pop music contributes much more than it is usually assumed.

Thank you, Kylie!!! It was a real pleasure.

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