Dance! Dance! Dance!

C James Fagan finds himself surprised and seduced by Homotopia’s Dance Triple Bill…

There’s a heightened sense of excitement as I enter the Unity’s theatre space for Homotopia’s Dance Triple Bill. Once the light lowers, it brings with it a soft quiet darkness. Out of this darkness a flame explodes and the glowing end of a cigarette appears; this glow becomes a spotlight and reveals a figure lying on its back on a sparse wooden table. This is Young Man! by DeNada Dance Theatre.

The figure, dressed in white tee and dungarees, exudes a mixture of the masculine and feminine. This figure (I mentally dub ‘The Mechanic’) leaving the table, occasionally nibbling a phallic chorizo, embarks on a solo through the space, as if searching for something. This sense is emphasised by the sounds of a Spanish love song full of longing.

A second character appears, wearing a biker jacket with slicked back hair; this character I dub ‘The Greaser’ swaggering on stage to a piece of Spanish rock ‘n’ roll. The Greaser carries herself with the same mixture of masculine and feminine as the mechanic, though appears to have a more aggressive role; her movements are spikey and seem to mock The Mechanic even at one point simulating a sex act on a pig’s leg.

“Each character switches between brutal and graceful swoops”

Throughout this dance of seduction, each character switches between brutal and graceful swoops. Their bodies tell a story, of love and lust, of a power struggle, after their initial encounter The Greaser, once powerful, becomes more submissive.

At this point the piece becomes about addiction, of wanting of love and lust, of surrendering yourself to another. The Greaser pulls out a small packet of white powder and is soon enticing The Mechanic to take it. From once chemical dependency to another, The Mechanic falls still and The Greaser leaves.

Before long the stage is being redressed, one table is replace by one draped in the American The lights go down again and the Star Spangled Banner announces itself proudly, in the centre of the stage as a woman, stood proud, dressed in clothes that seem to be shorthand for uptight. This is a woman who has the over-practiced smile of the professionally happy.

The figure mimes to pre-existing sound and we discover the name Anita Bryant, former Miss Oklahoma, singer, fierce anti-gay protestor. Cameo Cookie is a staging of Bryant’s story. As Bryant campaigns for Coca-Cola and hatred alike, all with the grand overacted movements found in actors who appear in the best Made-for-TV films.

Through bold demented movements the story of Bryant unfolds, including the damage her campaigning had on her career and her life. The piece seems to suggest that Bryant’s motivation stemmed from some kind of sexual frustration, especially during a spirited, crotch thrusting dance to Bowie’s Suffragette City.

“The ending sees Bryant shedding her clothes and being joined by scantily clad men” 

While watching I had the idea of a figure who stood against a way of life and love, though that element isn’t directly obvious. Part of that doesn’t matter as you’re caught up in the infectious manic energy of the whole thing, and enjoy the ironic ending which sees Bryant shedding her clothes and being joined by scantily clad men  all dancing joyously to Young Hearts Run Free.

Returning after the interval, for Tmesis Theatre’s Variations of the Heart, I can make out a string quartet has arrived, sat quietly in the left hand corner of the stage, while on the opposite side is a swing. Soon enough two figures climb onto the swing and huddle together like lovebirds. Onto them is projected an image of a beating heart and with it comes a brief lecture about the nature of love. It’s a pragmatic talk about the chemical reactions that make love. The figures then slip fluidly from the swing to the floor.

Soon they turn into forms which spasm on the floor; they grow into two separate women delicately dressed in white gossamer, accompanied by the graceful quartet. The couple evolve, forming their own identities, becoming aware of each other and begin to react to each other.

A connection is made and they begin to mirror each other; one begins to perform a skittish mating dance drawing closer to the other. It works as two become joined and the dancers begin to tumble, roll and fall in glee. The first blush of love is fleeting; this is obvious in our lovers as one now squirms in her lover’s embrace. The movements, once gentle and tender, become aggressive; desperate as they throw each other around in order to keep that first hit of love.

After this, exhausted and dazed, they return to their perch. It would seem to be an ambiguous ending, though the playing of Nick Cave’s Into My Arms points to something hopeful. There’s symmetry in tonight’s programme: the first and final dances seem to have the underlining concept that this thing we call love is something plastic, malleable, a reaction that isn’t solely dependent on your physicality. Love or sexuality is a polymorphic thing taking whatever shape it wants.

These performers have managed to explore notions of sexuality in ways I wasn’t quite expecting, seducing me with actions that where graceful, exciting and thoughtful.

C James Fagan

Read more Homotopia features and reviews here

The main Homotopia Festival continues until end November 2013; see full programme here

Posted on 12/11/2013 by thedoublenegative