The ‘Crazy Collective Energy’ of Young Boy Dancing Group

By
Photography Daniel Arnold

Published December 18, 2018

Young Boy Dancing Group debuted in 2014, when—to a packed and sweaty Club Silencio, pulsing with techno edits of Enya—its founding performers inserted lime green lasers into their anuses and swiveled around the room. Since then, the performance troupe has traveled the world, perfecting and amplifying its routine at underground and institutional venues alike, writhing elegantly in tattered clothing through spaces drenched in fake fog. 

The group’s surprising use of props earned it early viral fame. “This Dance Troupe Performs with Lasers in Their Butts,” Vice chuckled on its music platform, Thump, in March of last year. By October, a grainy image from one of their shows had appeared in a r/WTF subreddit post. “A friend of mine went to an art exhibit in Germany last week,” it read, above a snapshot of four dancers in a crowded room with lit dinner candles reaching out from their hands and backsides. “Asscandelous party,” quipped one of the 3,000-plus comments. 

But to gawk at YBDG’s antics is to miss the point completely. Above all, the group strives for intimacy—not clickbait. Their performances are designed to break down the barrier with spectators and to share with them an experience of sexually charged chaos—what one founding member, Manuel Scheiwiller, described during our meeting ahead of their appearance at the Athens Biennale as “crazy collective energy.” 

Intimacy, they quickly learned, is messy. As YBDG alternated and beefed up its cast—bringing on local performers as it moved from London to Athens, Zurich to San Juan—the group became like an amoeba, swallowing new parts and taking on their traits: YBDG could not be tied to a single theme or a single routine. The work could not be summarized in a press release (which YBDG does not issue) and its movements could not be planned in advance (which YBDG does not do). The shows had to be improvised, following nothing more than its aim to engage in the ecstasy of intimacy. “It’s all about the group,” Scheiwiller says. “I always trust the group.”