The myth of Faust, in its popular interpretations as well as in Christopher Marlowe’s 16th century Elizabethan tragedy, has inspired this performance created in June 1994 at the Théâtre de la Balsamine.
Smit’s choreography decidedly distances itself from the dramaturgy which he finds at times constraining. With L’Âme au Diable, Smits gives free rein to his yearning for dance and a more literal expression of homosexual desires which the relationship between Faust and Mephistopheles ideally allows. From this perspective, he still continues to draw on the lexicon of classical, modern, contemporary, ethnic and folkloric techniques, which he intentionally mixes, almost cynically, disregarding both formal and moral conventions. The dancers’ virtuosity enables Smits to freely explore and to push it to extremes in scenes whose erotic impact could occasionally be perceived as disturbing, if not provocative. The performance’s three-parted structure conform with the myth’s development, evoking the fatal pact between Faust and Mephistopheles, the seven deadly sins in which they wallow with delight, and the hell to which they are both doomed. The performers, almost interchangeable in their quest for pleasure marked by the seal of death, become engulfed in an exhausting performance, a “long, hectic agony” that ultimately leaves them exhausted, lying on the floor in pools of sweat. In many respects, this performance is a manifesto of the camp sensibility characteristic of many works created by homosexual artists, combining contrived aesthetics, heightened theatricality, dark irony and frivolous humour.