Fevered Sleep co-directors Sam Butler and David Harradine, talk about Men & Girls Dance, how the show came about and what it actually is about.
All adults should feel the potential to have normal, positive relationships with children. Men & Girls Dance hopes to offer provocations about, and ultimately solutions to, what we feel has fast become a problem around the culture of adults, and especially male adults, just being with children today. Fuelled by a media hungry for horror, most exchanges between adults and children are subject to checks and policies leading to a state of suspicion and anxiety about being in the presence of children, for whatever reason. We understand the need to keep our children safe and we know, of course, there will always exist adults who want to do harm, but both men and children are crying out to be allowed to engage with each other in normal ways, both physically and emotionally. As witnesses to the incredible relationships built up between the men and the girls we have worked with so far on this project, we know this is both true and important.
This is how it began. About four years ago, we were auditioning male dancers for one of our shows, and we found ourselves in a room with a group of extraordinary men, improvising and dancing together. The day before, we’d seen an end of term dance school show – mainly performed by girls – and we had the idea to place these very different dancing bodies side by side, to see what would happen if we did. What happened next opened up an ongoing conversation about the possibility of bringing men and girls together; a conversation about whether or not it’s right for adults and children to dance together; whether or not it’s possible to create a public space which allows play, tenderness, trust, empathy and love.
Men & Girls Dance is a celebration of the ways in which people can be together, of how we might exist, of how we can live around and with each other. It’s an exploration of closeness and of relationships, and of our perceptions of what it means for men and girls to come together in this way at this time. We refuse to accept that men and girls have no place together, and we celebrate the rights of people – and bodies – to come together to play, to empathise, to hold, to carry, to listen, to look, to be tender, to protect, to dance, and to love. Men & Girls Dance is a dance of bodies that are political, bodies that dance for love.
Men & Girls Dance, the show, brings together five male professional dancers with nine girls who dance for fun. In just two weeks these performers will make and rehearse a show together, leading to public performances at The Place. The show is partly choreographed, and some of the material is improvised live on stage. Like life, it’s full of things we know already, and full of things we don’t. By bringing these nine ‘ordinary’ girls and these five professional dancers together to make a show, we as directors – along with the audience – witness real relationships developing as the performers learn about each other. As they figure out how to work together, how to play together, how to be together and how to dance together, perhaps they start to suggest how we all might live.